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New guidelines for parenting time during a health emergency

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2021 | Child Custody

The Indiana Supreme Court recently issued new and amended guidelines for how parents should handle their parenting responsibilities during the pandemic or another health emergency. The keys are to be flexible and cooperative and to promote the health and best interests of their children.

The new rules were part of an overall order amending the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines in a variety of ways. If you have questions about how the parenting time guidelines have been amended, talk to your attorney.

Highlights about parenting time during a public health emergency

The first thing to know is that your existing court order regarding custody and parenting time remains in effect and you are expected to follow it to the best of your ability.

Temporary modifications. If all parties believe that a temporary modification to the custody and parenting time order is necessary, they can generally agree to temporarily modify their existing order. However, temporary modifications are not enforceable until filed with and approved by the court. If you can’t come to an agreement, any party can file a petition with the court to modify the order.

Closed schools. When schools close, some parents have had trouble interpreting their custody and parenting time orders. In general, custody and parenting time should not be affected by a school’s closure. For the purpose of interpreting your order, you should use the school’s official, published calendar, original or amended.

Transportation closures. Some parents have had trouble deciding what to do when transportation is shut down due to the public health emergency. Parents should continue to follow their custody and parenting time orders.

Filing court documents. All court documents should be filed electronically, as those mailed or faxed may not be reviewed promptly by a judge.

Child support. Some county child support clerks’ offices have been temporarily closed for in-person payments during the public health emergency. You should continue to follow your child support order. However, you may need to make your payments online, by telephone or at another location. If you are unable to make your full child support payment, you should file a petition to modify your child support order.

Make-up parenting time. When one parent chooses to forego parenting time due to the public health emergency, it should be considered voluntary. If the parent was acting in the child’s best interest, they should be allowed to exercise “make-up” parenting time at a later date, although it may not be possible to do so within the usual 30-day period or in a single block of time.