Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parenting plans & Parenting Time

I started following DIY Divorce in Florida on Twitter and noticed this post from her blog:

Florida Parenting Plans - The Basics & Beyond. This got me thinking about how we do things in Indiana. As I read the following, most of this seems to be covered by the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. These points seem covered by our Guidelines:
Jurisdiction

Your Children’s Rights

General Principles of Shared Parenting

Parent-Parent Communication

Transportation & Travel
See SCOPE OF APPLICATION, EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION and A CHILD’S BASIC NEEDS.

So we just say that the Guidelines apply and leave it at that. But then some points about we do not, that gave me something to think about:
Decision-making

* Education
* Medical
* Child Care Provider
* Religion
* Activities

***

Changes to the Plan

Parent-Child Communication Plan

Timesharing Plan - 7 different samples and a blank template you can customize

* Holidays, School Breaks, Vacations and Special Occasions
* Summer Schedule
We do not do this. The Guidelines cover the holiday (HOLIDAY PARENTING TIME SCHEDULE) and and Summer schedules but I infer a difference between us and this type of voluntary plan.

I find the "Changes to the Plan" intriguing as we rely on the visitation modification statute for modifying parenting time - see IC 31-17-4-2. That statute uses the best interests of the child standard.

Mentioning "best interests" brings me to A parenting plan may not be modified solely on "best interests" from The New Hampshire Family Law Blog. That post notes and quotes at length from a New Hampshire opinion wherein a parenting plan cannot be modified on showing of the best interests of the child alone unless the parties agree or meet the New Hampshire statute's requirements:
...However, for routine and holiday schedule changes or other issues that do not call for a change in residential responsibility, there needs to be a mechanism to allow for modification based on best interests so that the court may tweak a parenting plan as the current needs of the child dictate.
Maybe the detailed breadth and depth of our Guidelines are not such a bad thing.

Then maybe we lose something, too. By not writing their own parenting plans, Hoosiers lose being part of the process. Another part of the New Hampshire opinion quoted in A parenting plan may not be modified solely on "best interests" caught my and turned my mind onto this particular path:
The parenting plan form itself encourages parents to view the plan as a work in progress as the children grow and their needs change from infant to teen, but the statute itself does not allow for the changes except in the case that the parents agree or major issues develop as set forth in 461-A:11.
I do not know Indiana parents even notice not being part of the process but just see The Parenting Time Guidelines as something they must accept. Not many realize that the courts are bound by the Guidelines but not the parties. Maybe most parents have no real objection to the Guidelines. Neither the Bar nor the bench have anyway of knowing.

If you think you want to create your parenting plan I suggest giving the Florida Parenting Plans - The Basics & Beyond a good look.

Also go back and read my "Parenting Time: Idea on Scheduling Times for Visitation" on the specific issue of communication.

9 comments:

Jeanne M. Hannah said...

It is a good idea to consider the child's development when deciding what kind of parenting time plan you will follow. For example, frequent, short times are healthier for very young children who are easily traumatized by lengthy separations from the primary caregiver.

I blogged this issue on Updates in Michigan Family Law. You'll find links to Model Parenting Time Plans that are developmentally sound in the article. http://tinyurl.com/ba9x3r
Jeanne M. Hannah, Family Law Lawyer in Traverse City, MI

Jeanne M. Hannah said...

It is a good idea to consider the child's development when deciding what kind of parenting time plan you will follow. For example, frequent, short times are healthier for very young children who are easily traumatized by lengthy separations from the primary caregiver.

I blogged this issue on Updates in Michigan Family Law. You'll find links to Model Parenting Time Plans that are developmentally sound in the article. http://tinyurl.com/ba9x3r
Jeanne M. Hannah, Family Law Lawyer in Traverse City, MI

Sam Hasler said...

Thanks Jeanne. As I wrote, it is our usual practice in Indiana to rely on the Parenting Time Guidelines and not create our own parenting plans. Usually it is like this: PTG at a minimum and then whatever else the parties can agree to. I think many people think of the Guidelines as the beginning and the end of the discussion and do not realize they can do more. Maybe this will give them some ideas on being more creative.

Jeanne M. Hannah said...

Sam, you said that the usual is something like this:

"Usually it is like this: PTG at a minimum and then whatever else the parties can agree to. I think many people think of the Guidelines as the beginning and the end of the discussion and do not realize they can do more. Maybe this will give them some ideas on being more creative."

The parenting time plans in the orders and judgments I draft often run to two or three pages. It's not that I am determined to be verbose. It's that both parties are protected if they have a specific parenting time plan in place and there is later a breakdown in the communication between the parents. This is a particular concern in a high conflict divorce.

I tell my clients that the court doesn't care if they follow the specific plan or not. They're free to deviate in any way. But if a parent begins to experience refusals to permit parenting time, at least there is a usual (often what we'd call "normal") parenting time plan in place.

Another reason for a specific plan is that, as explained in the Arizona Model Parenting Time Plans, with a specific plan, it is possible to build incremental expansions upon parenting time that are developmentally sensitive. Otherwise, parents may experience a reluctance by a parent to increase parenting time as a child gets older. Also, of concern, is that a parent must prove that there is "good cause" or a "change in circumstances" to modify the most recent custody and parenting time order. That's a high burden that can be impossible to get around.

Sam Hasler said...

Our Parenting Time Guidelines run 80 pages and go into a lot of detail. Hence, I think we fall back on them as a generic template.

They are also supposed to be self-implementing. Ia m not so sure that the majority of Hoosiers find them so easy to understand.

By the way, the reason that they go to 80 pages is that they describe how visitation is to increase as the children get older and holidays and summer breaks.

Jeanne M. Hannah said...

<>

I like the incremental increases! That is really a great way to promote healthy parenting time.

Can you please send me a PDF of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines? I would love to review them.

DYI Divorce(sm) said...

Hi Sam.

It's always good to hear someone is reading the DIY Divorce in Florida blog :D

Florida doesn't permit changes to the parenting plan unless there has been a "substantial, unanticipated change of circumstances" that makes the current plan no longer in the BIC OR the parents agree in writing to such changes. Sounds similar to Indiana in that respect.

I really encourage divorcing parents to think about the developmental milestones in their kids' lives and at least agree to some set times that the plan can be re-worked based on the kids' development. What works fine for a first grader rarely works as well when the child is in junior high or high school.

These situations are when it becomes clear that what the law requires and what is truly in the best interest of the child sometimes collide. I think divorcing parents need to be aware of when this can happen and decide IN ADVANCE how to handle it before it becomes an issue.

Again, thanks for the shout out. Happy New Year.

Sam Hasler said...

Jeanne-

I can do better than a PDF - the Indiana Supreme Court has posted an HTML version. Here is the link - http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/parenting/index.html

I should point out that there are links throughout the article to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. I think I better go back and make that more clear.

Sam Hasler said...

DIY:

Indiana allows for a change in visitation when it is in the best interests of the child (paternity cases) or when visitation may cause physical or emotional harm to the child and is in the child's best interests. The Guidelines are supposed to eliminate the need for routine changes (and as I keep saying, provide for more than visitation.)

And you are quite welcome for the shout-out.