Even when one parent is awarded sole physical custody of a child and is deemed the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent is normally awarded parenting time with the child in a manner the Court believes to be in the best interest of the child. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide parenting time schedules based on the child’s age, beginning at the child’s birth. The parenting time schedule increases in increments as the child gets older, with the “standard” parenting time schedule beginning at age five. The “standard” parenting time schedule under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines is every other weekend, a mid-week visit, one-half of the holidays, and one-half of the summer, which is roughly 98 overnights per year. There are deviations of this schedule that may be appropriate, such as a mid-week overnight if there is not significant distance between the parents.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are meant to be just that – guidelines for the Court to use to assist in determining what parenting time schedule is in the best interest of the child. The guidelines are not a guaranteed minimum for non-custodial parents, nor are they the maximum amount of parenting time that can be awarded for a parent. However, if a Court awards a parent less parenting time than the parenting time guidelines, the Court must specify in writing why the Court is awarding less parenting time that recommended by the guidelines. There are certain instances where limited or supervised parenting time with the non-custodial parent may be appropriate.
The parenting time guidelines provide a schedule for holidays and extended time as well. Parents may choose to follow the guidelines for holidays, which generally rotate holidays every year between the parents, or parents may agree to follow their own schedule for holidays. The parenting time guidelines also provide a recommended parenting time schedule for parents that do not live close enough to one another to follow the “standard” parenting time schedule. The “when distance is s factor” parenting time schedule provide for longer, less frequent visits so that parenting time does not interfere with the school year.
The guidelines additionally provide guidance on ancillary issues related to parenting time. The guidelines provide guidance on when and how each parent can communicate with the child, how exchanges and transportation should occur, and what should happen when one parent is unable to care for the child during the parenting time. The parenting time guidelines are relied on heavily by the Court and every parent should read and be familiar with the guidelines.