The best parenting plan is one created by parents which fulfills the unique needs of the child and the parents. Parents should attempt to create their own parenting plan which is in the best interests of the child. If an agreement is reached, the parenting plan shall be reduced to writing, signed by both parties, and filed for approval by the court in order to be enforceable. When the parties cannot reach an agreement on a parenting plan, the specific provisions which follow are designed to assist parents and the court in the development of a parenting plan. They represent the minimum recommended time a parent should have to maintain frequent, meaningful, and continuing contact with a child.
For identification purposes, the following provisions set forth parenting time for the non-custodial parent and assume the other parent has sole custody or primary physical custody in a joint legal custody situation. These identifiers are not meant to diminish or raise either person's status as a parent.
Given the vast number of parenting plans which may exceed the minimum plan in these Guidelines and the particular needs and characteristics of each child and parent, it is impossible to impose any set of presumptions which will benefit almost all children and families.
The following is a list of factors which may be considered when determining whether a particular parenting plan exceeding the specific parenting time provisions herein is safe, secure, developmentally responsive, and, ultimately, in the best interests of the child. This list is not all-inclusive, and not all factors apply to any particular set of parental relationships. The factors are not listed in any order of priority. The list is meant to provide a framework for parents and other decision-makers to evaluate the potential for a proposed parenting plan to provide for healthy and continuing parenting relationships and promote the best interests of children.
Factors Related to the Child:The age, temperament, and maturity level of the child The child's current routine The child's response to separations and transitions Breast-feeding circumstances, if applicable Any particular physical, emotional, educational, or other needs resulting from the developmental stage or characteristics of the child
Factors Related to the Parent:The temperament of each parent The "fit" of each parent's temperament with the child's temperament Each parent's mental health, including mental illness and substance use or abuse Each parent's sensitivity to the child's early developmental needs Each parent's capacity and willingness to be flexible as the child's needs change from day to day and over time Factors Related to the Parent-Child Relationship Each parent's warmth and availability to the child Each parent's ability to correctly discern and respond sensitively to the child's needs Each parent's past experience living with the child and caregiving history Each parent's caregiving interest and motivation Each parent's history of perpetrating child physical or emotional abuse or neglect
Factors Related to the Co-Parenting Relationship:The parents' capacity and willingness to be flexible with each other as the child's needs get expressed in the moment and change over time The level and nature of conflict and/or domestic violence, including the history, recentness, intensity, frequency, content, and context (separation specific or broader) The parents' ability to compartmentalize any conflicts and protect the child from exposure to parental conflict The parents' ability to communicate appropriately and in a timely manner about the child The degree to which each parent facilitates contact and communication between the other parent and the child versus "gatekeeping" behavior intended to keep the other parent and the child apart The parents' capacity for cooperation about the child's developmental needs
Environmental Factors:The proximity of the parental homes The parents' work schedules and circumstances The presence of extended family members or close friends that participate in caregiving The availability of additional child care if needed and economic resources available to pay for it The mechanics in place to transfer the child from one household to the other
Unless it can be demonstrated by the custodial parent that the non-custodial parent has not had regular care responsibilities for the child, parenting time shall include overnights. If the non-custodial parent has not previously exercised regular care responsibilities for the child, then parenting time shall not include overnights prior to the child's third birthday, except as provided in subsection C. below.
The first few years of a child's life are recognized as being critical to that child's ultimate development. Infants (under eighteen months) and toddlers (eighteen months to three years) have a great need for continuous contact with the primary care giver who provides a sense of security, nurturing and predictability. It is thought best if scheduled parenting time in infancy be minimally disruptive to the infant's schedule.
Parenting time should occur in a stable place and without disruption of an infant's established routine.
Parenting Time Guideline II. C. 3. (C) (4) is intended to provide a way to shorten the last age-based parenting time stage when the infant is sufficiently bonded to the non-custodial parent so that the infant is able to regularly go back and forth, and particularly wake-up in a different place, without development-retarding strain. If this is not occurring, the provision should not be utilized. The nine (9) month provision is applicable only within the 19 to 36 month section. Therefore, as a practical matter, the provision could not shorten this stage until the infant is at least 28 months old. The provision applies equally to all non-custodial parents.
Where the distance from the non-custodial parent's residence makes it reasonable, the weekday period may be extended to an overnight stay. In such circumstances, the responsibility of feeding the child the next morning, getting the child to school or day care, or returning the child to the residence of the custodial parent, if the child is not in school, shall be on the non-custodial parent.
The noncustodial parent shall have up to four (4) non-consecutive weeks during the year beginning at 6:00 P.M. on Sunday until 6:00 P.M. on the following Sunday. The non-custodial parent shall give at least sixty (60) days advance notice of the use of a particular week.
If a child attends a school that has a year-round or balanced calendar, the noncustodial parent's extended parenting time shall be one-half of the time for fall and spring school breaks. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parents or ordered by the trial court, the noncustodial parent shall exercise parenting time the first half of school break in odd years, and the second half of school break in even years. Absent an agreement of the parties, the first half of the break will begin two hours after the child is released from the school, and the second half of the period will end at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school begins again. Summer Vacation should be shared equally between parents as provided in the paragraph above. Winter break/Christmas vacation should be shared as provided in the Holiday Parenting Time Schedule.
If a child attends summer school, the parent exercising parenting time shall be responsible for the child's transportation to and attendance at school.
During any extended summer period of more than two (2) consecutive weeks with the non-custodial parent, the custodial parent shall have the benefit of the regular parenting time schedule set forth above, which includes alternating weekends and mid-week parenting time, unless impracticable because of distance created by out of town vacations.
Similarly, during the summer period when the children are with the custodial parent for more than two (2) consecutive weeks, the non-custodial parent's regular parenting time continues, which includes alternating weekends and mid-week parenting time, unless impracticable because of distance created by out of town vacations.
The selection of a parent's summer parenting time shall not deprive the other parent of the Holiday Parenting Time Schedule below. See Section II. F.
Regular time spent in the company of siblings. Regardless of personalty and age differences, siblings who spend time together can form a family community that can be a tremendous support in adult life. If the children do not create natural opportunities for them to want to do things together, the parents will need to create reasons for this to occur.
Emphasis on worthwhile values. Parent and teens together should invest time in wholesome activities that teach a teenager important lessons. If a teenager identifies with worthwhile values, the teen is more likely to have a positive self-image.
Time spent with good friends. A parent's expectations can influence a teenager's choice of friends. Meet your teenager's friends and their parents and interact with them as guests in your home. This will increase the likelihood that your teenager's friends will be people who are comfortable in the environment that is good for the teen.
Clear rules that are agreed upon by both parents. As a child matures, it is very important that the teen knows rules of acceptable behavior. The chances of this occurring are much better if both parents agree in these important areas. When parents jointly set the standard of behavior for their teen, the chances of the child accepting those values are greatly increased.
Good decisions/greater freedoms. A teenager who does what is expected should be offered more freedom and a wider range of choices. It is helpful if a teenager is reminded of the good decisions that have caused the teen to be given more privileges. If a teen is helped to see that privileges are earned and not natural "rights" he or she will be more likely to realize that the key to getting more freedom is to behave well. If rules are not followed, appropriate consequences should result. A teenager who does not make good use of independence should have less of it.
If parents are not able to agree, the teenager, who very much wants freedom from adult authority, should never be used as the "tie breaker." When parents live apart, it is more likely that a child will be required to make decisions, not as a healthy part of development, but simply to resolve disagreements between the parents.
As a general rule, a teenager should be involved in making important decisions if the parents agree the opportunity to make the decision is valuable, and the value of that opportunity outweighs any possible harm of a poor decision. If the parents feel the welfare of the child is dependent on the decision made, and if they allow the child to make a decision simply because they cannot agree, the parents are in danger of failing the child.
Mary Jones and John Jones disagree as to whether or not their daughter, Sally, should study a foreign language in middle school. Mary feels that this early exposure to a foreign language will offer Sally an advantage when she continues this study in high school. John would like Sally to have the opportunity to develop her artistic talents through electives in drawing and painting. The Jones agree that Sally's success and happiness will in large part be determined by her motivation. They agree that Sally should decide between a foreign language and art, and that they will support whatever decision she makes.
Comment: Mary and John feel that Sally is mature enough to think about what interests her and makes her happy. They feel that an opportunity to do this in choosing an elective will be an important experience for Mary - more important than the relative merits of foreign language or art study to Sally's academic career. This is a good example of parents agreeing to involve the adolescent in making a decision that resolves their own disagreement.
Tom Smith and Sue Smith cannot come to a visitation agreement. Tom believes their 17 year old son, Pete, should have visitation at a time to be determined by Pete. Tom feels that, if Pete is given a visitation schedule, he will feel that he is being forced to see his father. Tom further believes this will weaken his relationship with his son. Sue believes a clear plan regarding the time Tom and Pete spend together should be established. She says if Pete is not given a firm expectation of when he will be with Tom, it will be too easy for other activities in Pete's life to crowd out this priority. Unable to resolve this question, Tom and Sue give Pete the option of deciding if he would like a visitation schedule or if he would like to be free to see his father whenever he pleases.
Comment: Tom and Sue each feel the quality of Pete's relationship with Tom will depend on the way that visitation is structured. Each believes that, if Pete makes the wrong choice, the problems that follow could impact him throughout his adult life. They have placed the responsibility for the decision on Pete, not because the chance to make such a decision will help him, but because they cannot resolve the matter between themselves. This is a poor reason for entrusting an adolescent with such an important decision.
Making Regular Parenting Time Workable. Parents must develop a parenting plan that evolves or changes as the teen matures. The needs of the child at age thirteen will be very different from the needs of that same child at age seventeen. Parents also must develop a parenting plan that assures regular involvement of both parents. This can be a particular challenge when the teen is involved with school, activities, and friends, and becomes even more difficult when the parents live some distance apart.
When parents differ in their views of which freedoms should be given and which should be withheld, the parents must be sufficiently united to keep the teenager from assuming responsibilities when the child is not ready. At the same time, the parents must respect that they will run their homes differently because they are living apart.
Living apart challenges parents to teach their child that different ways of doing things can work for different parents. They must see that their child needs to work especially hard to adapt to two distinct ways of doing things. Not all differences mean that one parent is right and one parent is wrong. The key is for parents to realize different homes can produce a well-adjusted teen.
Example: The Student Athlete
Jim Doe and Jane Doe have been divorced for 3 years. Their oldest child, Jeremy, is beginning high school. Throughout his middle school years, Jeremy was active in football. Practices were held after school and games took place on weekends. Jeremy had spent alternating weekends and one night each week with his noncustodial parent. The parent who had Jeremy took him to practices and games during the time they were together. On week nights with the noncustodial parent, this usually consisted of dinner and conversation. Weekends with both parents included homework, chores, play, and family outings.
Jeremy's high school coach is serious about football. Jeremy loves the sport. Coach expects Jeremy to work out with teammates throughout the early summer. In August, practice occurs three times a day. Once school begins, Jeremy will practice after school for several hours each day. In addition, he is taking some difficult courses and expects that several hours of study will be needed each night. Jeremy will have games on Friday nights. Because of his busy weekend schedule, he expects that Saturdays will be his only time to be with friends.
On the surface, a traditional parenting plan, placing Jeremy with his noncustodial parent on alternating weekends and one night each week, would not seem to work. Jeremy's athletic and academic demands will require him to work hard on weeknight evenings. Jeremy's parents agree he needs time to be with friends and he should be allowed to make social plans on Saturdays. They recognize Sundays will often need to be devoted to homework projects which do not fit into the busy weekday schedule.
A Possible Solution
Jeremy's parents want him to enjoy sports and have friends. Yet, they also want him to have the benefits of being actively raised by two parents. They want him to grow to become an adult who sees that balancing family, work, and play is important. They want to teach him how to do this.
Jeremy's parents have agreed to maintain their previous supervision plan. However, they have also agreed on some changes. Jeremy's noncustodial parent will come to the community of the custodial parent for midweek visitation. Regardless of how busy he is, Jeremy needs to eat. The noncustodial parent plans to take Jeremy to dinner at a restaurant that offers quick but healthy meals. They will spend the rest of the time at a local library where Jeremy can study. The noncustodial parent can offer help as needed or simply enjoy a good book. Jeremy's parents plan to purchase an inexpensive laptop computer to assist him when he works at the library.
Jeremy's parents plan that alternating weekends will continue to be spent with the noncustodial parent. They, like many parents of adolescents, understand Jeremy wants to be with his friends more than he wants to be with them. They recognize that, on weekends, they are offering more supervision and Jeremy's friends are getting more time. Yet, they also see the need to help Jeremy establish active family membership as one of his priorities.
The Holiday Parenting Time Schedule shall take precedence over regularly scheduled and extended parenting time. Extended parenting time takes precedence over regular parenting time unless otherwise indicated in these Guidelines.
Alternating weekends shall be maintained throughout the year as follows. If a parent misses a regular weekend because it is the other parent's holiday, it will be lost. If a parent receives two consecutive weekends because of a holiday, that parent shall have the third weekend also. Regular alternating weekends shall continue throughout the year.
In odd numbered years the non-custodial parent shall have all of the children the day before each child's birthday from 9:00 A.M. until 9:00 P.M.; however, if such day falls on a school day, then from 5:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. The custodial parent shall have all of the children on each child's birthday from 9:00 A.M. until 9:00 P.M.; however, if the birthday falls on a school day, then from 5:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M.
This provision only applies to children under eighteen (18) years of age.
When the parent's birthday falls within a Special Day, Holiday or Christmas vacation, the Special Day, Holiday or Christmas vacation takes precedence.
The Christmas vacation shall be defined as beginning on the last day of school and ending the last day before school begins again. Absent agreement of the parties, the first half of the period will begin at 6:00 p.m. the day the child is released from school. The second half of the period will end at 6:00 P.M. on the day before school begins again. Each party will receive one half (1/2) of the total days of the Christmas vacation, on an alternating basis as follows:
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day shall not be considered separate holidays under the Parenting Time Guidelines.
The following holidays shall be exercised by the noncustodial parent in even numbered years and the custodial parent in odd numbered years:
The following holidays shall be exercised by the noncustodial parent in odd numbered years and the custodial parent in even numbered years:
Recognizing there are individuals of varying faiths who celebrate holidays other than those set out in the guidelines, the parties should try to work out a holiday visitation schedule that fairly divides the holidays which they celebrate over a two-year period in as equal a manner as possible.
Ind. Par. Time. Guid. II