The Indiana parenting time guidelines were established to make the process of setting up visitation schedules a little easier between divorced parents and their children.
Few things can be as contentious as divorced parents setting up visitation schedules for minor children but since more and more states are establishing guidelines to make the process a little easier, parents don’t dread it as much as they once did.
The state of Indiana’s Supreme Court recently established certain guidelines to help parents determine an arrangement that is fair to everyone, especially minors. The state even has a toll-free phone number staffed by lawyers who can help people better understand the rules in effect.
The Basics of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines
Before the state established these guidelines, parents and the courts had a tougher time deciding how to set up a visitation arrangement that suited everyone’s needs. In addition to the guidelines, which state the specific rules, there is also commentary that explains the rules. If you’re a parent looking to devise the perfect visitation schedule for a minor child, it is recommended that you read both of these sections thoroughly.
One of the most interesting aspects of the guidelines is the use of the term “parenting time,” which is used in place of the word “visitation.” The state of Indiana considers non-custodial parents’ time with the child to be important unless there is an underlying reason why this should not exist and has established these rules to make it easier and fairer for everyone.
Based on the children’s ages, the guidelines have different rules that pertain to each aspect of the visitation, including:
- Communication between the parents and between parent and child
- Activity schedules of the children
- What the children will wear during the visitations
- How the children will get to the visitation location
- How children can make up for missed visitations
Certain Aspects of the Rules
The guidelines set forth by the state of Indiana pertain to every child visitation case, which is why the courts have an obligation to abide by the rules unless there is a mitigating reason why they shouldn’t. Some of the reasons why they are sometimes not applied include when children come from families that are experiencing substance abuse, when there is any type of violence in the home, any circumstance that may result in the child being harmed either physically or emotionally, and situations where a non-custodial parent may run away with the child.
As mentioned earlier, the child’s age has a lot to do with the intended visitation schedule. The state guidelines include the following recommendations:
- 0-4 months: Three days per week for two hours each; two hours on all holidays; one overnight visit per week unless the visiting parent hasn’t taken regular care of the child.
- 5-9 months: Three days per week for three hours each; three hours on all holidays; one overnight visit per week unless the visiting parent hasn’t taken regular care of the child.
- 10-12 months: Three days per week with eight hours on a non-work day and three hours on the other two days; eight hours on all holidays; one overnight visit per week unless the visiting parent hasn’t taken regular care of the child.
- 13-18 months: Three days per week with ten hours on a non-work day and three hours on the other two days; eight hours on all holidays; one overnight visit per week unless the visiting parent hasn’t taken regular care of the child.
- 19-36 months: Ten hours on Saturday and ten hours on Sunday (overnight is acceptable if the visiting parent has taken regular care of the child) every other weekend; one day during the week for three hours (again, overnight is permissible); ten hours on all holidays.
- Ages 3 and over: every other weekend from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. on Sunday; one evening per week for up to four hours; all scheduled holidays.
When visitation takes place during the week, the permissible days should not be consecutive. If your children are in different age groups, most courts allow the younger children to abide by the same time schedule as the older children. However, the courts may decide differently in some cases and therefore two or more children may have different visitation schedules.
During the summer months, the schedules are naturally going to be different. Non-custodial parents get four weeks during the summer if the children are in the three- to four-year-old age group. For children five years old and older, each parent will get half of the summer time with the children. If possible, the parents should work to establish the schedule for themselves but if this is not possible, the custodial parent must receive the requested schedule from the non-custodial parent by April 1. If the non-custodial parent doesn’t do this, the custodial parent can decide on the summer schedule for the child.
What About the Holidays?
The days considered official holidays are established by the state and they include the following:
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Child’s birthday
- Parent’s birthday
- Christmas vacation
- New Year’s Eve and Day
- Spring break
- Memorial Day
- Fourth of July
- Labor Day
- Other religious-based holidays
If a non-custodial parent lives far away, the courts will make exceptions to some of these rules. However, every attempt is made by the state to ensure that both parents are able to spend quality time with the children they share.
Are the Rules Flexible?
Although the state and court system recognize that regular and consistent time with each parent is important to the child’s well-being, there is the possibility that some of the rules may need some flexibility once in a while. For starters, although there are justifiable reasons for missing scheduled visitations, there are also situations that are not considered justifiable. These include if the weather is bad, if the child has to go somewhere, if the child has a minor illness, and when the custodial parent doesn’t want the child to go, among others. In other words, visitation is expected to take place if at all possible every single week.
As far as makeup time goes, both parents should attempt to schedule a makeup visitation that is acceptable to both sides. This also applies to the holidays and any special occasions such as weddings, graduations, and more. The parent who missed the scheduled time with the child may decide to forego the time so that it doesn’t have to be rescheduled but the important thing is for both parents to work together so that acceptable arrangements are made as often as possible.
These guidelines were designed to make it easier, not more difficult to establish proper visitation schedules for non-custodial parents. This is why they are designed to be flexible in most circumstances. The state also takes seriously its responsibility to make sure that children are always safe from harm regardless of which parent they’re with and to be properly supervised and taken care of every time.
These things, along with others, are the reasons why the guidelines were established in the first place and they go a long way in helping achieve the goal of making sure that all children of divorced parents get the right amount of time with each parent that they need and deserve.
If you need professional assistance interpreting or applying any of these guidelines, the Indiana Child Support Bureau’s toll-free phone number is available from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday. The number is 844-836-0003. You can also email them at any time at PTHelpLine@dcs.in.gov.