Friday, February 10, 2012

Amendments to Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines - Presumptions

After a two year process the proposed revisions to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines [IPTG] have now been posted on the Indiana Judiciary webpage. The Domestic Relations Committee of the Indiana Judicial Center [DRC] -- the body responsible for writing the IPTG -- will be accepting public comment on the proposed revisions until Monday, 26 March 2012 .

For the past two years I have been attending the DRC meetings and presenting proposals or providing feedback as requested. I will be analyzing each of the amended sections individually and providing commentary. Today I start with my first posting - Presumptions.

In its inception the purpose of the IPTG was to bring continuity and uniformity to parenting time plans among the courts throughout the state. What the unintentional consequence was is that the Guidelines essentially became a default parenting time arrangement for lazy judges. The DRC has opposed the use of the Guidelines in this manner and have sought ways to change the mindset of judges, practitioners and parents that the Guidelines represent the parenting time for a non-custodial parent [NCP]. The Guidelines were established as a minimum from which to build additional parenting time for the NCP.

Here is the proposed revised -- in bold type -- section: Presumption

Presumption. There is a presumption that the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are applicable in all cases covered by these guidelines. Deviations from these Guidelines by either the parties or the court that results in parenting time that is less than the minimum time set forth below must be accompanied by a written explanation indicating why the deviation is necessary or appropriate in the case.

The written explanation need not be as formal as Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law; however, it must state the reason(s) for the deviation. A court is not required to give a written explanation as to why a mother or father is awarded more time with the child than the minimum in these guidelines. Because the parenting time guidelines are minimum standards, it is recommended parents and courts not “default” to these guidelines in lieu of a consideration of the best parenting time plan.

The purpose in amending the rule to differentiate between any deviation and a downward deviation was to encourage judges and parties to deviate upward by removing the additional burden of having to write specific findings. Quite simply, accommodating laziness or hurried courts.

The Commentary then clearly indicates that a court need not provide findings for an upward deviation. As will be common throughout the proposed changes, language was added to reiterate that the Guidelines represent a minimum and are not intended to be the default. Additionally, the DRC was very cognizant of not using NCP as being synonymous with fathers. Often times when members would do that they would catch themselves and make the correction in their speaking. For those that didn't I offered a gentle reminder.

The next section will cover communication with the child -- particularly electronic communication.

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More information about child custody rights and procedures may be found on the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates website.

©2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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