Indiana Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Indiana and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Indiana courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
It is important to be familiar with the laws and rules regarding child custody when making a parenting plan in the State of Indiana so that you can create a plan that is compliant with the requirements of the court.
Title 31 of the Indiana Code contains the child custody and visitation laws of the state. The Code provide laws for topics such as grandparent visitation, relocating a child in a custody situation, and the payment of bonds to secure parenting agreement issues, but the Code is a bit vague and does not include all of the relevant factors.
A better resource is the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines which can be found in the Indiana Rules of Court. The Indiana PTG provides the public with an in depth guide to child custody.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines was created by the Domestic Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana.
The committee studied relevant material pertaining to child custody and visitation. They then developed the guidelines so that the court and the parents involved in a child custody proceeding would have a foundation of the minimum amount of time the non-custodial parent should have to spend meaningful time with their child.
The State of Indiana requires parents to follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines when making a parenting plan, although adjustments may be made to the Guidelines.
Using the information found in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines when creating your parenting plan is a great way to ensure your parenting plan is accepted by the court.
The State of Indiana recognized that it is in the best interests of a child to have frequent, ongoing, meaningful contact with both parents, as long as a parent does not pose a threat to the welfare of the child.
It is presumed that the terms of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are applicable to all of the families and children involved in custody proceedings covered by the guidelines. Generally, the guidelines apply to "normal" families.
Families with circumstances such as domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse problems, etc. are not expected to create their parenting plans in accordance to these guidelines, as special precautions must be taken for those types of situations to protect the child from harm.
If you wish to alter or deviate from the guidelines must do so in writing, and explain to the court the reasons why any deviations are being requested and how the changes would benefit your child.
When making a parenting plan, you are strongly encouraged to adjust and modify the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines in accordance to the special and unique needs of your child.
The guidelines were designed to serve as a model for creating a parenting plan while protecting the best interests of the child but you will not be forced to follow anything you feel is not in your child's best interests.
When creating the parenting plan, it is important to do so with the best interest of the child as a focal point. The Guidelines found in the Indiana Rules of Court defines the factors the court considers to be relevant and important.
The guidelines expect the parents to accept, respect, and foster the needs of the child and the committee found that the basic needs of a child are that:
- The child should be reassured and should know that the parents' separation is not his or her fault.
- The child should have the ability to have a meaningful relationship with each of the parents while having the opportunity to have each parent involved with nurturing, caring for, and guiding the child. Though living apart, the child is to be allowed to be parented by each of his or her parents.
- The child is not to be placed in a position that would require him or her to "take sides" with either parent. The child is not to serve as a mediator for dispute resolution between the parents. Parental conflict should be avoided in the presence of the child.
- The child should have the ability to have a secure and relaxed relationship with each parent, without being placed in a position to manipulate one parent against the other.
- The child should have the right to spend consistent, quality time with both parents.
- The child should be financially supported by both parents, despite the amount of time each parent sends with the child.
- The child should be safe and well supervised while in the care of a parent, and have safe and responsible supervision by a consistent caregiver when not in a parent's care.
- The child should be permitted to maintain and establish meaningful relationship with other adults, such as grandparents and other relatives, as long as it does not interfere with the primary parental relationships.
Article 31-17, 2-8 of the Indiana Code specifically states that the custody order must be in accordance with the best interests of the child (the custody order is what the parenting plan / custody agreement is called when it is officially accepted by the court).
The law also gives factors that the court considers when determining what is best for the child, including:
- The age and sex of the child
- The wishes of the child's parents regarding custody
- The wishes of the child with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is at least fourteen years of age
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parents, the child's siblings, and anyone else who significantly affects the child
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all the people involved
- Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent
- Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian
These factors are useful for you to consider as you think about dividing parenting time and parental responsibilities. Thinking about all aspects of your child's life and how the agreement will affect your child's life is important in making the best agreement for your child.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provides many rules that must be included in the parenting plan.
There are rules regarding the various methods of communication between the child and each parent and also between the parents.
There are rules regarding the transportation of the child between parents, as well as many other rules designed to benefit the child.
By following the Guidelines and modifying them to meet your child's needs, you will be sure to create a parenting plan that the court adopts and that will benefit your child until he or she reaches adulthood.
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