Compassionate Guidance Through Difficult Personal Times
Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs Staff
  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Child Custody
  4.  » What do courts consider when putting together parenting plans?

What do courts consider when putting together parenting plans?

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2023 | Child Custody |

Courts look to the best interests of the children when determining parenting time — but what does this mean? The fact is, although the factors are spelled out the court’s application may come as a surprise. This is why we often turn to court cases to help get some guidance.

How does the process start?

It often begins with a provisional order, a type of stopgap that fills in as a parenting plan before the divorce is finalized.

In a recent example of how the court navigates custody issues, a father argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it changed the parenting plan. Instead of sticking with the original terms in the provisional order, the court changed the amount of time the father got with his child.

The father argued that the court overstepped when it “restricted” his time with his child. He stated this “restriction” occurred when the court did not keep the terms as listed within the provisional order. Under the provisional order, the court granted the father two overnights on alternating weekends and a mid-week overnight every week. The dissolution decree was different, granting one overnight on alternating weekends and one mid-week visit of four hours.

The father argued that this was a restriction and, for the court to restrict his time they need to show that continuing the plan as listed within the provisional order would result in physical or emotional danger to the child.

Did the court make a mistake?

The father appealed the case and took it to the Court of Appeals. On appeal, the court used this case to discuss the difference between provisional orders, dissolution decrees, and modifications. A modification is a term of legal significance, and it is important to understand when it applies to child custody cases.

As noted above, a a court will use a provisional order as a temporary solution until the parents finalize the divorce. Once the parents finalize the divorce, the trial court makes their determination. Changes to the court’s determination can rise to a modification. This case did not involve changes to the determination, but to the provisional order. As a result, it was not a modification, and the court did not need to prove any sort of endangerment to warrant the changes.

How much time with each parent is reasonable?

State law often provides guidelines for reasonable parenting time. In some cases, Indiana state law allows for a deviation from these guidelines. This deviation is different from a restriction. A deviation from the guidelines could result in parenting time less than the minimum time set forth in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines so long as the deviations are accompanied by a written explanation indicating why the deviation is necessary and appropriate in the case. A restriction like supervised parenting time requires a finding of endangerment while a deviation only requires a written explanation. Applicable here is the fact that a deviation is generally easier to prove than a restriction.

Here, the appellate court explains that the lower court deviated from recommended parenting time because there was evidence that sticking with the recommendation would have a negative impact on the child’s emotional development. Examples of evidence included Father’s desire for the child to miss extracurricular activities because they conflicted with his parenting time and Father’s disagreement with the child’s desire to have employment.

An additional factor for consideration was that the child was not comfortable with full parenting time and his mental health professional was concerned that if pushed to meet Father’s rigid parenting time demands, he could reject Father altogether when he turned 18 years of age.

In its holding, the court was careful to point out two clarifications. First, that a deviation from the guidelines is not unreasonable per se. There are many instances when a deviation makes sense and this case provided one example. Second, that the guidelines for teenagers include special considerations such as the noncustodial parent making efforts to accommodate a teenager’s busy schedule.

This case is important because it not only provides an example of how courts analyze these issues but also the importance of legalities. Each word holds a specific meaning and the rules that apply will vary. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel to help guide you through these issues and better ensure a resolution that works for your family’s needs.

Craig Randolph v. Karen A. Randolph, Court of Appeals of Indiana, May 26, 2023,




American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Super Lawyers
ISBA Sustaining Member