Judges are frequently asked to make custody and parenting time decisions in cases where there is a high level of conflict between parents. Courts have several options they can implement to help diminish the conflict between parents and protect children from being exposed to their parent’s conflict. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“Guidelines”) defines “high conflict parents” as “parties who demonstrate a pattern of ongoing litigation, chronic anger and distrust, inability to communicate about and cooperate in the care of the child, or other behaviors placing the child’s well-being at risk.” The Guidelines provide guidance on creating parallel parenting Orders in these high conflict cases.
Parallel parenting is a deviation from the Guidelines. The Guidelines support open communication between parents and parents attending events together, like doctor’s appointments and school events. The provisions of a parallel parenting Order seek to reduce interactions between parents where parents have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate and interact in a respectful manner. Children are often put in the middle of their parents’ conflict, and parallel parenting Orders seek to reduce the children’s exposure to the conflict.
A parallel parenting plan enables each parent to make day-to-day decisions about the child while the child is in their care. The parents do not communicate about the day-to-day care of the child and generally do not work together to make decisions for the child. The parents’ communication is normally limited to writing and may involve an application like Our Family Wizard or App Close which allows the Courts, attorneys, and therapists to view the communication to ensure it is appropriate. Joint legal custody, make-up parenting time, and the opportunity for additional parenting time are normally inappropriate in parallel parenting arrangements.
The hope is that a parallel parenting arrangement is a temporary arrangement. It is normally coupled with the involvement of therapists to try to help resolve the high conflict between the parents. The Guidelines provide a Model Parallel Parenting Plan Order which can be used by Courts and parents to create a parallel parenting plan that works for each individual family.
If a parallel parenting plan may benefit your family, contact the experienced attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff, P.C. to discuss custody and parenting time options.