By Christoper J. Barrows, Barrows Legal Group LLC
On September, 2, 2016 the Indiana Supreme Court approved changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines approving a Section V to be added to the IPTG effective January 1, 2017. This section adds rules for Parent Coordination in Indiana. The new rules can be found here. There are a few items from the new rules to highlight as well as a few points to make with regard to having the new rules for Parent Coordination.
These are part of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, so all the general rules applicable to the guidelines should apply. First, the IPTG are “applicable to all child custody situations, including paternity cases and cases involving joint legal custody where one party has primary physical custody. However, they are not applicable to situations involving family violence, substance abuse, risk of flight with a child, or any other circumstance the court reasonably believes endanger the child’s physical health or safety, or significantly impair the child emotional development.” IPTG Preamble, C. Scope. And “there is a presumption that the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines are applicable in all cases. Deviations from these Guidelines by either the parties or the court that result in parenting time less than the minimum set forth below must be accompanied b a written explanation indication why the deviation is necessary or appropriate in the case.” IPTG Preamble, C. Scope.
This means that it may be important in cases where the court addresses the need for a parent coordinator, that the court also order that the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines apply, at least to the extent that the order incorporates the provisions of the Parent Coordination section.
The new Parent Coordination rules only apply to new appointments of parent coordinators after January 1, 2017. Existing court orders for parent coordination remain as ordered.
Some of the highlights from the remainder of the new rule are:
- The parent coordinator must be a registered domestic relations mediator, or obtain a waiver from the court ordering the appointment and become registered within two years.
- The Court may order appointment with or without agreement of the parties.
- The court order for appointment must be detailed and comply with the rule. However, the parent coordinator and the parties may have an additional agreement to address matters not in the order such as payment.
- The parent coordinator shall not communicate with the court ex parte.
- The parent coordinator process is not confidential, and does not create any privilege or therapist-client privilege.
- The parent coordinator has a duty to report child abuse or neglect, AND any activity, criminal or otherwise, that adversely affects the parent coordinator’s ability to perform the function of the parent coordinator.
- The parent coordinator cannot function in dual roles in the same case (i.e mediator then parent coordinator then evaluator) if it creates a conflict of interest.
- The parent coordinator shall avoid professional or personal conflicts of interest.
- The parent coordinator has the authority to work with the parties to reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, only the parties and the parent coordinator must sign the agreement before sending it to the court for approval. The agreement must be copied to counsel, if any.
- The parent coordinator has the authority to submit to the court the parent coordinator’s recommendations if an agreement cannot be reached. If a recommendation is filed by the parent coordinator, it must have an explanation of how this helps the family.
- Either party may object to the recommendation.
- The court, upon receiving the recommendation may do any of the following:
- Approve the recommendation
- Deny the recommendation
- Take no immediate action
However, upon the Court’s own motion, or if one or both parties object, the Court shall set it for an expedited hearing to determine what, if any action, the court should take on the recommendation.
These new Parent Coordination rules are a welcome guide for the practice of parent coordination in Indiana. As courts work with the new rules more guidance will become clear with caselaw interpreting the provisions, or adjustments to the rules as may be necessary from time to time by the Indiana Supreme Court. But it is clear that the major issues of confidentiality, binding authority of the parent coordinator, appointment without agreement of the parties, and many other issues with regard to parent coordination practice were considered by the Supreme Court prior to promulgating these new rules.
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