For parents, life after divorce legal considerations can be many and not very far between. Most post-divorce disagreements arise over co-parenting plans that fail to work in reality as expected when reviewing them on paper, or no longer work due to changed family circumstances. This blog explores co-parenting plans and post-divorce legalities and how you might avoid or resolve some common issues.
While a co-parenting plan may sound good in an initial court ruling or settlement agreement, it might not work well when put into practice. Drive time increases caused by road construction, a parents illness, school closings due to weather, mechanical issues with one of the party’s vehicle, and any number of unforeseen events can cause even the most well thought out plans to fall short on occasion. When temporary issues such as these arise, parents are expected to attempt to find a solution to the problem on their own, before asking for court involvement in resolving the issue (Ind. Par. Time Guid. R. I(E)(1)). The Parenting Time Guidelines offer some guidance on many common temporary issues such as these.
Family changes can also cause disagreements when attempting to follow a previously working co-parenting plan that is no longer reasonable under the circumstances. These changes nearly always occur as children grow older and begin to have different needs. Teenagers generally attend more social events and wish to spend an increased amount of time with their friends. They may also want to spend more time with a same sex parent than the current parenting time schedule provides. Some of the decisions that parents must make for teenagers can be quite a bit more difficult than those made for younger children. This too might cause disagreements between parents. Again, parents are expected to make all efforts to work out parenting issues themselves. However, if a problem with your co-parenting plan cannot be resolved between you and your child’s other parent, you may wish to consider mediation before going to court.
Mediation is an informal alternative to court where a neutral third party, the mediator, helps litigants reach an agreement with which they can both be happy. The mediator does not give legal advice, is not on either parties “side”, and cannot determine how the court may rule should the parties not be able to work out a solution themselves (Ind. 2.7(A)(3)). Instead, the mediator helps litigants to define the issues, work together to find a solution, makes suggestions, and facilitates communication. Mediation is often less expensive and stressful than court and works well for parties who are willing to negotiate and compromise. When parties find it impossible to compromise in resolving co-parenting plan issues, court intervention may be the only option.
When a co-parenting plan works otherwise, but one parent regularly and continuously refuses to follow the plan, filing a request for citation may be the only solution to get them to do so. A person who fails or refuses to follow an order of the court is guilty of indirect contempt of court (I.C. 34-47-3-1). Along with the request for citation, a rule to show cause is sent to the party not following the order with the time and date for a hearing where they can present evidence that they are following the order or explain why they are not (I.C. 34-47-3-5). After this hearing, the court will decide whether the party is in contempt of court and what the punishment should be. The court may reorder the party to follow the order, require them to pay the other parties attorney fees, fine them, or sentence them to time in jail (I.C. 34-47-3-6).
Sometimes, whether followed by both parties or not, and even when the parties are willing to be flexible and work out temporary issues, co-parenting plans simply no longer work. Changed work schedules, remarriage, and children simply growing older can result in the need for a new co-parenting plan based on new life circumstances. In this event, custody can be modified by agreement of the party, or one parent may file a petition to modify custody. Custody modifications are similar to initial custody determinations except that when asking the court to modify custody, not only does the modification have to be in the child’s best interest, but the party requesting the modification must prove a substantial change to one of the best interests factors enumerated in the custody order statute (I.C. 31-17-2-21).
It is likely that all parents will at some point have disagreements over their co-parenting plan. The type of issue and the parents ability, or lack of ability, to resolve it on their own or with a mediator, may lead to post-divorce hearings where the court will create a new parenting plan that works better in the families current situation. If you are having difficulties with your co-parenting plan, the experienced attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help you determine the best course of action in order to protect your rights and your child’s.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.