Shared parenting after a divorce is a relatively new concept that is gaining ground in courts in Indiana and other states across the nation. Instead of more traditional custody and visitation arrangements, many judges now are leaning toward co-parenting or shared parenting relationships. In this kind of arrangement, parties often have their children in their care for relatively equal amounts of time and cooperate to make decisions for the best interest of their children.
Traditional Custody and Parenting Time Models
Historically, one parent usually received custody of the children following a divorce, and the other parent had specified visitation. Under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, the noncustodial parent generally has visitation every other weekend, one evening during the week, and for extended periods on holiday and school breaks. This traditional model often resulted in one parent, or the custodial parent, managing most of the children’s day-to-day lives, such as monitoring schoolwork, participating in extracurricular activities, and getting medical care for the children.
As time has gone on, our society has increasingly changed to one in which most parents work outside the home and both parents play a greater role in their children’s developments and lives. Some time ago, the Indiana legislature replaced the concept of “visitation” with “parenting time,” to reinforce the concept that both parents provide a home and spend time with their children, rather than the children simply “visiting” the noncustodial parent.
Shared Parenting: How It Works
Shared parenting goes beyond using the term “parenting time” instead of “visitation.” In a shared parenting arrangement, the parents develop a shared parenting plan in which they decide how they will co-parent their children. Essentially, each parent provides a “home” for the children as they move between their parents’ residences. Shared parenting is increasingly being seen as the best way to safeguard a child from the trauma that a divorce often can bring about.
Shared parenting arrangements do not necessarily mean that the children spend exactly the same amount of time with each parent (although that does occur in some cases). Instead, it means that parents are flexible in allowing one another to participate in their children’s lives, including medical appointments, school conferences, and social activities. Rather than feeling pulled between each parent, the children move seamlessly back and forth as their parents work together on all issues related to the children.
Of course, not all parents are able to communicate or get along sufficiently to engage in shared parenting. Likewise, some parents are not willing or unable to be as involved in their children’s daily lives, which can make shared parenting challenging, if not impossible. Cases in which domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse has been a factor also likely are not suitable for a shared parenting arrangement.
Shared Parenting Moving Forward
The Domestic Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana has proposed changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines that would incorporate shared parenting as an alternative to more traditional custody and visitation structure following a divorce. These proposed changes provide tools for judges to evaluate whether parents are well-suited to shared parenting. If parents are able to truly put the needs of their children first in developing a co-parenting relationship with each other, the court may be more likely to make shared parenting orders.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey T. Arnold for Assistance
Navigating a divorce can be tough, and you likely are to have many questions along the way. At Arnold Law Office, we can help. Call us today at 765-962-3344 or 866-958-5995 and schedule a consultation with us about your case.