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Divorce Battles Prompt Review Of Custody Guidelines

Judges may change the way courts oversee custody battles between heated parents.

Gavel

Photo: Jashin Lin (WFIU/WTIU News)

Fee says new guidelines attempt to promote a peaceful resolution to issues of custody.

Indiana‘s Supreme Court will meet in November to consider new guidelines for family-court judges handling difficult divorce cases.

A panel appointed to revise and update Indiana‘s basic template for custody agreements has recommended special attention for what the panel calls “high conflict parents,” exes whose relationship is so hostile that they race back to court over the most minor issues.

Steuben Superior Judge Bill Fee headed the commission and says most divorces don‘t fall into that category, but those that do can cause lasting emotional damage to the children.

“Judges are to look for repeat litigation, chronic anger and hostility, inability to communicate — all behaviors that would affect the well-being of the child,” Fee says.

The proposed rules lay out guidelines for “parallel parenting” arrangements in which warring parents have as little contact as possible until a mediator is able to forge enough of a thaw for them to handle exchanges peacefully. The state guidelines are intended as a minimum standard.

Fee says the goal in any divorce, including high-conflict cases, is for the parents to hammer out a custody agreement themselves. The revisions also update the guidelines for technological advances.

The current guidelines recommend ensuring the noncustodial parent can talk to the kids on the phone. The proposed changes expand that to include communications such as email, texting and Skype.

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