The Indiana Child Support Guidelines provide that the recipient of child support – most often the custodial parent – is responsible for purchasing the child’s clothing. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (“IPTG”) then provide that the custodial parent must send the child with an adequate supply of clean clothing for his parenting time with the non-custodial parent. The IPTG go on to state that the clothing should be returned in a clean condition at the conclusion of parenting time, but that non-custodial parents may wish to have an adequate supply of clothing at his or her home for the child as well.
The IPTG’s instruction that clothing must come home clean certainly makes sense and looks good on paper, but how does it work in real life? For a parent who only has parenting time from Friday at 6:00 P.M. to Sunday at 6:00 P.M., sending the child home with nothing but clean clothing requires that laundry be done on Sunday before the child is picked up by the custodial parent. But what if the parenting time was spent out of town without an opportunity to do laundry? While sending home a smelly soccer uniform isn’t ideal, that may be what has to happen to ensure that the child has his uniform for the Tuesday night game, rather than creating a situation where the uniform remains at the non-custodial parent’s home to be washed and then requiring a special trip to take it to the child. Parents should have discussions as to how this should be handled when children start becoming more and more active and completing laundry starts becoming secondary to the running around associated with parenting an active child. Certainly if parenting time is longer than a weekend, such as on school breaks or during the summer, clothing should be returned in a clean condition as often as possible.
Another common complaint is that clothing purchased by one parent never makes it back from parenting time, especially for parents who may both provide clothing due to a shared parenting schedule. Remember that when your children are able to dress themselves, they have certain favorite items that they prefer to wear every week. Choosing their clothing or style is the one way that they can exert some control over their lives. The clothing should be viewed as the child’s, and the child should be permitted to wear and take the clothing to both parent’s homes to wear as he desires, as he would transport his favorite stuffed animal or – in the case of an older child – his cell phone.
Children grow fast and clothing can seem like a never-ending expense. Both parents should support one another by ensuring that clothing is returned to the home of the custodial parent as quickly as possible, and with as little interruption to the child. It’s not the child’s fault that his parents live in two households and he has to be the one to go back and forth. Having the clothing he needs in each home when he gets there will help make those transitions seamless for the child, and create a better parenting time experience for everyone.