Saturday, June 7, 2008

Examining Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines: GENERAL RULES APPLICABLE TO PARENTING TIME #1

Continuing my examination of Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines, I am starting on the long section of General Rules Applicable to Parenting Time. Specifically, the first part of this section titled COMMUNICATIONS. I am quoting only portions and not all of The Parenting Time Guidelines and adding my comments as I go along. Please remember that my comments that do not quote case law are only opinion and not authoritative.

With this section begins the meat of The Parenting Time Guidelines. For those who think these provisions need only skimming, I suggest you go back and take your time. Think about the possibility of a contempt citation coming your way. Yes, contempt as in the intentional and willful disobedience of a court order. I am seeing courts implementing The Parenting Time Guidelines with Orders saying something about incorporating The Parenting Time Guidelines. Incorporating the Guidelines means that all of the Guidelines becomes part of the court's Order. In turn, they become enforceable via contempt.

1. Between Parents. Parents shall at all times keep each other advised of their home and work addresses and telephone numbers. Notice of any change in this information shall be given to the other parent in writing. All communications concerning a child shall be conducted between the parents. Any communication shall occur at reasonable times and places unless circumstances require otherwise. A child shall not be used to exchange documents or financial information between parents.
Sounds like common sense, right? Then you are already ahead of the game. Remember that there are exceptions to these rules for cases of spousal abuse.
2. 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.
Again, a lot of common-sense here. It was this part that made me realize that parenting time is much more than visitation. Notice that each sentence in this section uses "shall" to make each mandatory upon both parents.

3. With A Child By Telephone. Both parents shall have reasonable phone access to their child at all times. Telephone communication with the child by either parent to the residence where the child is located shall be conducted at reasonable hours, shall be of reasonable duration, and at reasonable intervals, without interference from the other parent.

If a parent uses an answering machine, voice mail or a pager, messages left for a child shall be promptly communicated to the child and the call returned.
This is the first Guideline under this section to have a commentary:

Parents should agree on a specified time for telephone calls so that a child will be available to receive the call. The parent initiating the call should bear the expense of the call. A child may, of course, call either parent, though at reasonable hours, frequencies, and at the cost of the parent called if it is a long distance call.

Examples of unacceptable interference with communication include a parent refusing to answer a phone or refusing to allow the child or others to answer; a parent recording phone conversations between the other parent and the child; turning off the phone or using a call blocking mechanism or otherwise denying the other parent telephone contact with the child.
Telephone calls crop up frequently. One case involved the ability of the children to call while on extended visitation. Another involves a two year and scheduling of the telephone visitation. We are still waiting to see how well the telephone calls work out in practicality.

Here, I think, The Parenting Time Guidelines show their age. Many of today's children have cell phones that let us avoid some of these problems and concerns. (And speaking of cell telephones, remember that they keep a record of calls made and received.)

Notice that the Guideline is mandatory.

4. With A Child By Mail. A parent and a child shall have a right to communicate privately by e-mail and faxes, and by cards, letters, and packages, without interference by the other parent.


A parent should not impose obstacles to mail communications. For example, if a custodial parent has a rural address, the parent should maintain a mailbox to receive mail at that address. A parent who receives a communication for a child shall promptly deliver it to the child.
Another Guideline that I think is self-explanatory. Notice, again, that the Guideline is mandatory. (About visitation by e-mail, do take a look at my earlier post Visitation by E-Mail).
5. Emergency Notification. For emergency notification purposes, whenever a child travels out of the area with either parent, one of the following shall be provided to the other parent: An itinerary of travel dates, destinations, and places where the child or the traveling parent can be reached, or the name and telephone number of an available third person who knows where the child or parent may be located.
More mandatory requirements but no defining of "travels out of the area" - but reading 5 as a whole this appears to contemplate an extended journey more than a weekend jaunt. Why is a missing definition important? If the idea underlying Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines is to reduce litigation and improve relations between parents, then leaving open an avenue for unnecessary litigation seems counterproductive. (For more on the policy of The Parenting Time Guidelines, see my articles: Examining Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines: A CHILD’S BASIC NEEDS, and Examining Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines: Scope of Application.)

Note that this Guideline imposes a mandatory duty on both the custodial and non-custodial parents.

I have practiced family law for over twenty years now, having started long before the Parenting Time Guidelines. With my generation and older, I think there remains the idea that parenting Time is visitation. I believe that the general population thinks of parenting time as visitation. (Yes, notwithstanding all the best efforts of the committee drafting these Guidelines and the judges and the lawyers, I think this describes the current state of thinking on Indiana's Parenting Time Guidelines.) I hope that by now, if you have read this far, that we begin to see visitation is only part of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.

I would ask that if you have anything to say about any experiences with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines that you use the Comments function below. It may be a benefit to others.

I should also mention that I am taking on parenting time cases.


Anonymous said...

Cell phones are not apart of the IPG's? This has become a problem after supplying one for 5 years for my son. After all these years and allowing calls to/from son and parents, my ex now claims she has a rule of no cell phones for children under 15 (son is 13). She refuses to allow him to have it this summer let along answe it. Any news when they might update the IPG's?


Sam Hasler said...

It is not that they are not part of the IPG. Take a look at what I quoted and my comment on that. I wrote about children having their own cell phones. If the child does not have their own cell phone, then what I wrote is irrelevant and the rule as written is very much relevant.

Anonymous makes a point here that I am going to put into a post of its own.

Sam Hasler said...

Oh, sorry but I have heard nothing about any revisions to the Parenting Time Guidelines.