We have a “default setting” in Indiana called the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. The Guidelines spell out in detail how custody and parenting time works. For example, if Mother is awarded custody of the child she will be designated as the “primary physical custodian” of the child for Guideline definitional purposes. In turn, Father would be deemed the “non-custodian” of the child, and depending on the age of the child, would have parenting time every other weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m. with one midweek visitation between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines also detail parenting time for all holidays, birthdays, school breaks, parenting time where distance is a factor, etc. It is important to realize that the Guidelines are based upon the minimum time a non-custodial parent should spend with the child when the parties cannot reach their own agreement. In other words, the Guidelines are a floor and not a ceiling. The amount of information contained in the Guidelines is extensive and beyond the scope of this blog. Every client’s case will be different, and I will endeavor to explain how the intricacies of the Guidelines apply to your individual case when we meet to review it.
When expanding parenting time above what is recommended by the Parenting Time Guidelines the real key is to establish that the non-custodial parent has historically done a lot of the parental and caretaking responsibilities for the child. For example, if Dad is designated as the non-custodial parent and he wishes to have additional or equal parenting time, then we must establish that Dad has been involved in the day-to-day caretaking responsibilities of the child; including but not limited to, taking the child for routine doctor’s visits, attending parent-teacher conferences and school functions, helping with homework, participating in extracurricular activities, changing diapers, feeding and bathing the child, etc.
The stereotype is that Dad goes and works 8, 10, 12 hours a day, comes home, maybe eats dinner at the kitchen table with the family, then he goes to watch TV and after that it’s off to bed. Don’t let this happen to you! Just because you may not have a lot of time to spend with the kids other than maybe talking to them and asking them how school was, it’s vitally important to do the things described above. Think of it this way: the more that you are involved in your child’s day-to-day life the more receptive the court will be in granting you additional parenting time.
It is extremely important to document everything that you do with your child. For example, sign your child’s homework sheet after helping them complete the homework, keep a daily schedule of what you do with the kids from the time they wake up until they go to bed, keep a diary of your activities, keep a calendar of the number of overnights you have, etc.
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