by Philip C. Sheward June, 2012
Though they once loved each other enough to get married and have three kids, John and Jane now can't stand the sight of each other. And while in a perfect world, we might expect them to set aside their differences when making decisions that involve their children, they are unable to do so, despite their best intentions. Whatever the reason: John's broken heart, Jane's resentment over how she feels John treated her during the marriage, or what has become severe hatred for each other, they are unable to maintain civility, even to the detriment of their kids. They constantly argue in front of their children, and may even justify their poor decisions to their kids by blaming the other parent. Clearly, this is a dynamic that should be avoided.
Recently, the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines ("IPTG") underwent some proposed revisions and the changes are anticipated to become effective in the fall of 2012. Assuming the changes are adopted, and it is anticipated that they will be, courts will be able to designate John and Jane as "high conflict parents," meaning that they are parents who demonstrate a pattern of ongoing litigation, chronic anger and distrust, or inability to communicate about and cooperate in the care of the children. The IPTG will now offer two concepts to aid high conflict parents in rearing their children: 1) the use of a Parenting Coordinator; and 2) the use of a Parallel Parenting Plan.
A Parenting Coordinator is an impartial third party, who is appointed by the court to assist parents in resolving issues and recommending solutions to disputes. Parenting Coordinators are not new in Indiana, but up until now their use had not been formally contemplated by the IPTG. For more information about Parenting Coordinators, and how they can assist high conflict parents, read Why Do I Fight More With My Former Spouse Since the Divorce? The Role of the Parenting Coordinator, written by one of our attorneys, Dawn E. Wellman.
Parallel parenting is a deviation from the typical IPTG framework, and it allows parents like John and Jane to raise their children with little to no contact with each other. In parallel parenting, John and Jane will make day-to-day decisions on behalf of their children while the kids are with them. Communication between them will be limited, and mostly in writing. In order for a court to deviate from the traditional IPTG, the court must find that the parties are high conflict parents. While each unique case will require different components of a Parallel Parenting Plan, such a plan might cover the following areas of concern:
- Responsibilities and decision-making
- Regular parenting time
- Summer parenting time
- Holiday parenting time
- Transportation of the children
- Emergency changes in the regular parenting time schedule
- Communication between the parents
- Safety of the children
- Education of the children
- Issues related to extended family
- Child care
- Parent relocation
- Attendance of children's events
- The basic needs of children
- Dispute resolution
Ideally, the use of parent coordination and/or parallel parenting will lead to parents like John and Jane learning to co-parent in a way that alleviates conflict over time to the point that the Parenting Coordinator or the Parallel Parenting Plan is no longer necessary. Do you think that you might be a high conflict parent? Do you have questions about whether parent coordination or parallel parenting might assist you and your family? If so, please feel free to contact one of our attorneys.