The January 1, 2022, amendment of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines includes the addition of a section call “Custody and Parenting Time During a Public Health Emergency.” The COVID-19 pandemic caused issues for separated families that were not anticipated. Judges, family law practitioners, and families have been navigating uncharted territory since March 2020. The Guidelines now provide general guidance to families in the event a public health emergency occurs again.
The Guidelines adopt the Supreme Court Order, which was issued on March 31, 2020, on parenting time during the pandemic (Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support during the Coronavirus Pandemic). The most important directive is that existing court orders regarding custody and parenting time shall remain in place during a public health emergency. Further, the Guidelines direct parties to file agreements, petitions, or motions electronically, as documents sent by mail or fax may not be reviewed as promptly since it is anticipated Judges may not be in their offices during a public health emergency.
A parent’s decision to forgo parenting time to protect the child’s health and well-being or to protect the health and well-being of a household family member will not be considered a voluntary relinquishment of parenting time. If a parent is acting in the child’s best interest due to dangerous conditions which make the exercise of parenting time unsafe, that parent should be able to exercise make-up time in the future. In these circumstances, make-up time may not be available within thirty days of the missed parenting time. It may also not be feasible to make-up the lost parenting time in one single block of time, depending on how much parenting time was missed due to the public health emergency.
As always, parents are encouraged to be flexible and cooperate with each other for the best interest and health of their children.