The most substantive amendment to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines is the inclusion of a section titled “Shared Parenting.” Shared Parenting is a model to assist parents who require less separation in their personal relationship and wish for a more seamless blending of child rearing practices in their two homes. The agreement and cooperation of the parents is an essential element of a successful shared parenting plan. To effectively implement a shared parenting plan, each parent will need to do the work required to make his or her home feel like “home” for their child or children. It is imperative that the child or children feel “at home” at both residences. This can be a substantial task for parents to achieve. The ultimate goal of shared parenting is to promote the healthiest bond possible between the child and both parents.
The Guidelines state: The task of judging the capacity of parents for Shared Parenting is a complex one. The abilities of the individual parents and their ability to work together, the amount of work Shared Parenting would require of that unique family, and the costs to the child of both Shared Parenting and any alternative all require assessment. Successful Shared Parenting can insulate the child from most material and emotional losses which are frequently a consequence of parental separation. Unsuccessful Shared Parenting can accelerate the parental conflicts which are most predictive of emotional illness in children of separation/divorce.
To assist Judges in determining whether a shared parenting plan is appropriate, the Guidelines provide factors for the court to consider when determining whether the parents have a capacity for shared parenting. The factors relate to the child, the ability of the child to benefit from shared parenting, the parents, the parent-child relationship, the co-parenting relationship, and environmental factors. The Guidelines provide factors, questions, and insights in each section which assist a Judge in determining whether a shared parenting plan will benefit that particular family. The shared parenting model in the Guidelines is a thorough analysis of whether a shared parenting plan is in a child’s best interest. It offers significant guidance above the statutory factors that courts are to consider when determining custody and parenting time.
Any parent seeking a shared parenting plan should review the amended guidelines in depth to determine whether a shared parenting plan is right for their family.