Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amendments to Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines - Communication

After a two year process the proposed revisions to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines [IPTG] have now been posted on the Indiana Judiciary web-page. 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 continue with my second posting - Communication.

The IPTG currently provide this section on communication with a child generally:
"A child and a parent shall be entitled to private communications without interference from the other parent. A child shall never be used by one parent to spy or report on the other. Each parent shall encourage the child to respect and love the other parent. Parents shall at all times avoid speaking negatively about each other in or near the presence of the child, and they shall firmly discourage such conduct by relatives or friends."

I cannot overstress the importance of facilitating communication between the child and the NCP. Often times this is the only link they have with each other. This communication needs to be private because of the damage that monitoring does. From the perspective of the child it says 'I don't trust you' rather than an intention that may be as innocent as just wanting to see how the child interacts with the other parent and if the child has concerns that he or she hasn't expressed.

Two new portions have been added to the Communications section of the IPTG

Here are the proposed revised -- in bold type -- portions: Communication

Electronic Communication. The same provisions above apply to electronic communications of any kind. However, these provisions shall not be construed to interfere with the authority of either parent to impose reasonable restrictions to a child’s access to the Internet.

I presented the issue of Electronic Communication to the DRC noting that traditional forms of communication such as mail and landline phones are becoming outmoded and the IPTG should be consistent with our modern forms of communication. The presentation was well received and I was shown appreciation for bringing forth this issue and the technologies of which some of the members were unaware.

I have received numerous complaints from parents of being "defriended" on social networking sites, their child's computer 'not working' or having cell-phones or other personal communication devices taken away 'as punishment'. These are all interferences with communication between the parent and child but little has been done in the courts because it is not a specific contempt of the court's order adopting the IPTG. Now that it will be in the IPTG this type of interference will be punishable through contempt proceedings.

I have also written legislation that I hope to get passed in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly. Now that major civil rights legislation for workers has been adopted in Indiana I hope that a full body of legislators will attend session next year so additional legislation can be heard.

The next portion, communication between parents and children, includes specific reference to some of the technologies I presented and again stresses the importance of communication between the parent and child.

Communication between parents and children. Each parent is encouraged to promote a positive relationship between the children and the other parent. It is important, therefore, that communication remain open, positive and frequent. Regular phone contact is an important tool in maintaining a parent/child relationship as well as other forms of contact such as letter, e-mail and other more technologically advanced communications systems such as video chat and Skype. Parents shall not block reasonable phone or other communication access between a parent and child or monitor such communications. A parent who receives a communication for a child shall promptly deliver it to the child. Both parents shall promptly provide the other parent with updated cell and landline phone numbers and e-mail addresses when there has been a change.

Parents need to be aware that all communication mediums will soon be covered by the IPTG. Although the thrust of these amendments was to facilitate communication between the child and NCP the language has been written so it applies universally. Although a custodial parent shall not be permitted to dominate a child's time with communication while with the NCP the NCP shall still encourage and facilitate communication with the custodial parent by the child. The following proposed commentary clearly gives the notice requirement that I wanted so that a parent could be held in contempt for interfering with any type of communication. No parent will be able to claim ignorance on this issue.

It is important for children to have as much contact with both parents as possible. Interference with reasonable communication between a parent and child, including monitoring of that communication is destructive not only to the children’s relationship with the other parent, but are also destructive to the children. Attempts to block access to and contact with the other parent may violate these parenting time guidelines. These types of behaviors may lead to sanctions, a change of parenting time, or in some cases, a change of custody. The prohibition applies equally to the custodial as well as the non custodial parent.

The next section will cover Exchanges and Additional Time -- particularly clarity on so-called "First-Right-of-Refusal".

If you need assistance with a child custody matter please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me.

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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.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Cell phones are a privilege and can be controlled by the party who purchases, activates, and pays for the phone. It is only necessary to provide a phone of some sort for communication. Both parents have the right to purchase their child a cell phone for their own personal use with their child. To reiterate just because the child has a cell phone it is not your right to use it if you are not the paying party. Call the phone provided.