2013 Holidays and the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (OLD AND NEW)

Confused about holiday parenting time? Here’s a breakdown of Thanksgiving and winter break under both the OLD and NEW Parenting Time Guidelines. This guide uses Carmel Clay Schools winter break (Dec. 20 – Jan. 6), so if your school follows a different schedule, adjust accordingly. Happy holidays!

Do the Guidelines apply in my case?

The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines outline the “default” parenting time schedule for parents who are raising their children separately, either because of divorce or because they were never married in the first place.  The Guidelines are often used by judges and lawyers as a starting point for an order, or to fill in parenting time provisions where parents don’t have an agreement.  ALWAYS check your particular court order or court-approve agreement to determine if the PTG apply to your case.  If your Order or Agreement provides something different than what the Guidelines say, always follow your agreement.

Which Guidelines apply – the Old Guidelines or the New Guidelines?

There are two different versions of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines – the “old” version and the “new” version.  The old PTG were in effect until March 1 of 2013, when the new ones took over.  Therefore, if your order or agreement was entered prior to March 1, 2013, then you will follow the old PTG (unless your agreement or order states that you follow whatever PTG are in effect at any given time).  If your order or agreement was entered March 1, 2013 or later, then you would fall under the new PTG.

Holidays and the OLD Parenting Time Guidelines

From the OLD PTG: 

Christmas Vacation. One-half of the period which will begin at 8:00 P.M. on the evening the child is released from school and continues to December 30 at 7:00 P.M. If the parents cannot agree on the division of this period, the custodial parent shall have the first half in even-numbered years. In those years when Christmas does not fall in a parent’s week, that parent shall have the child from Noon to 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Day. The winter vacation period shall apply to pre-school children and shall be determined by the vacation period of the public grade school in the custodial parent’s school district.  In years ending with an even number, the non-custodial parent shall exercise the following parenting time: [1] New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. (The date of the new year will determine odd or even year). From December 30th at 7:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M. of the evening before school resumes. [4] Thanksgiving. From 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday until 7:00 P.M. on Sunday.

So what does it mean?

THANKSGIVING: Custodial parent gets Thanksgiving Break in 2013. 

WINTER BREAK:  The kids are with non-custodial parent from December 20 at 8:00 pm, until December 25 at noon. Then custodial parent has the children from noon on Christmas Day until 7:00 pm December 30. The kids are back with non-custodial parent from 7:00 pm December 30 until the night before school resumes, January 5 at 7:00 pm.

Holidays and the NEW Parenting Time Guidelines

From the NEW PTG: 

The Christmas vacation shall be defined as beginning on the last day of school and ending the last day before school begins again. Absent agreement of the parties, the first half of the period will begin two hours after the child is released from school. The second half of the period will end at 6:00 p.m. on the day before school begins again.  Each party will receive one half (1/2) of the total days of the Christmas vacation, on an alternating basis as follows: 

  1. In even numbered years, the custodial parent shall have the first one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation and non-custodial parent shall have the second one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation.  
  2. In odd numbered years, the non-custodial parent shall have the first one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation and custodial parent shall have the second one half (1/2) of the Christmas vacation.  
  3. In those years when Christmas does not fall in a parent’s week, that parent shall have the child from Noon to 9:00 P.M. on Christmas Day.  
  4. No exchanges under this portion of the rule shall occur after 9:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m., absent agreement of the parties. 
  5. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day shall not be considered separate holidays under the Parenting Time Guidelines.  Thanksgiving. From 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday until 7:00 P.M. on Sunday, shall be exercised by the noncustodial parent in even numbered years and the custodial parent in odd numbered years.

So what does it mean?

THANKSGIVING:  Custodial parent gets the 2013 Thanksgiving Break. 

WINTER BREAK:  The kids are with the non-custodial parent from December 20 through December 28, except that the custodial parent gets the children on Christmas Day from noon to 9:00 pm. Custodial parent gets the children December 28 through when the children go back to school. 

To Sum it Up:

Holidays can be a busy, stressful, emotional time under the best of circumstances.  Adding a confusing parenting time situation with an ex who, shall we say, lacks the Christmas spirit, can be an outright mess.  While you can’t control what Scrooge does, you ARE in charge of your own behavior, so remember to put your kids’ needs first this holiday season.  Be as flexible, reasonable, and respectful as you can with your children’s other parent – it’s the best gift you can give your kids, and it’ll keep you from getting a lump of coal in your stocking.  If the other parent refuses to follow the court order or court-approved agreement about parenting time or anything else this holiday season, keep your cool and call your lawyer.  He or she can talk you through what your options are – it may be possible to schedule make-up parenting time or even file a contempt action against the other parent and pursue sanctions, possibly including attorney’s fees.

Hang in there, and remember the reason for the season – whatever that means to you.  Have a very happy, safe, and peaceful holiday season!

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It’s TAX TIME!

Do you have kids?  Do you have an ex (or a soon-to-be ex)?  If so, then you have some figuring-out to do, because it is tax time, and who gets the tax credits for the kids is one of the most fought-about issues in divorce and custody cases.  

Fortunately, the Indiana Child Support Guidelines (http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/child_support/) offer some guidance on this question.  Here is what the Guidelines have to say about the right to claim the minor tax exemption for your kids:

Tax Exemptions. Development of these Guidelines did not take into consideration the awarding of the income tax exemption. Instead, it is recommended that each case be reviewed on an individual basis and that a decision be made in the context of each case. Judges and practitioners should be aware that under current law the court cannot award an exemption to a parent, but the court may order a parent to release or sign over the exemption for one or more of the children to the other parent pursuant to Internal Revenue Code § 152(e). To effect this release, the parent releasing the exemption must sign and deliver to the other parent I.R.S. Form 8332, Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents. The parent claiming the exemption must then file this form with his or her tax return. The release may be made, pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code, annually, for a specified number of years or permanently. Judges may wish to consider ordering the release to be executed on an annual basis, contingent upon support being current at the end of the calendar year for which the exemption is ordered as an additional incentive to keep support payments current. It may also be helpful to specify a date by which the release is to be delivered to the other parent each year. Shifting the exemption for minor children does not alter the filing status of either parent.

The noncustodial parent must demonstrate the tax consequences to each parent as a result of releasing the exemption and how the release would benefit the child(ren). In determining when to order a release of exemptions, it is recommended that at minimum the following factors be considered:

(1) the value of the exemption at the marginal tax rate of each parent;

(2) the income of each parent;

(3) the age of the child(ren) and how long the exemption will be available;

(4) the percentage of the cost of supporting the child(ren) borne by each parent;

(5) the financial aid benefit for post-secondary education for the child(ren); and

(6) the financial burden assumed by each parent under the property settlement in the case.

That is an awful lot of information to consider, so let me break it down for you:  The court in your case doesn’t have the authority to award an exemption to anyone, BUT it DOES have the power to order that one parent RELEASE the exemption to the other parent.  The default is that the exemption goes to the custodial parent, unless the court orders it released to the other parent.  Releasing the exemption involves the custodial parent completing a form (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8332.pdf) and giving it to the noncustodial parent.  The noncustodial parent then attaches the form to his or her tax return when filing.

So, who’s going to be entitled to claim the kids, anyway?  Again, the default is that the custodial parent gets the exemptions.  But if you are the noncustodial parent, you may be able to get a court order for the release of the exemption to you.  To do so, you will need to file a petition with the court (the same court that handled, or is handling, your divorce/paternity/custody case).  You will have to prove that you having the exemption would be beneficial to the kids.  The court is going to look at factors including the dollar value of the exemption to you vs. to the other parent, each parent’s income, the age of the child(ren) and how many more years an exemption will be available for him/her/them, the percentage of the cost of supporting the kids that each parent is paying, the financial aid benefit for the kids’ college expenses, and, in cases of divorce, the financial burden each of you was left with under the terms of the property settlement.  So be prepared to tell (and show) the judge exactly why you think it’s better for the kids that you get the exemption.

And remember, noncustodial parents are only allowed to claim the exemption if they are at least 95% current on their child support obligation – so make sure you’re paid up before you claim the kids.

If you have any questions about this topic, or about divorce, custody, support, or other family law issues, here’s how to get a hold of me:

Remember, we offer free same-day consultations with Indiana divorce and custody lawyer Kate Flood, so please call.  We don’t bite. 🙂