Using Police to Enforce Parenting Time in Indiana

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Posted in On May 18, 2016

Should the Police Get Involved in Enforcing Your Parenting Time?

It is your scheduled parenting time and your ex refuses to give up your child – what now?  In most cases, the reaction would be to threaten a call to the local police.  While there may be some benefit down the road to documenting denied parenting time, the effect may not be as immediate as a parent in that situation may hope.
Police officers across the state, and country for that matter, are not family law attorneys or judges.  The issues involving parenting time are better left handled by those directly involved in the case.  The most probable response will be advising that custody and parenting time disputes are civil in nature and therefore not criminal matters to be handled by individual officers.   The police are not likely to remove a child from one parent to give to the other unless there are obvious safety concerns.
Indiana Code 35-42-3-4 prohibits interfering with custody of a minor.  The classification can range from a misdemeanor offense up to a felony depending on the length and distance of the interference.  However, this statute is difficult for local officers to enforce while on a scene due to specificity.  In order for officers to be confident they are taking rightful action, they need a court order that specifies the exact date and time of the ordered exchange.  Even then, it is nearly impossible for an officer to confirm the order being presented is the most current version in that case.   A basic order that states one parent should have alternating weekends or mid-week parenting time would not be sufficient for street level enforcement.
Before involving the police in parenting time disputes, carefully consider all ramifications.  The negative effects of children witnessing police involvement may outweigh the missed parenting time from that exchange.  Calling the police on the other parent may also further the breakdown in the co-parenting relationship.  If you are represented by counsel, consider contacting your attorney to discuss your legal options for enforcing the parenting time order.
If you are the parent that is refusing the parenting time to the other parent, remember that you may be in violation of a court order.   The exchange should be made pursuant to any parenting time order unless there is a genuine concern for the safety of the child(ren).  If you do not agree with the order or feel it is no longer appropriate to your situation, the proper avenue may be to file a request with the court to modify the current order.
If you or someone you know has questions about parenting time orders, Banks & Brower, LLC can assist.  Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at