Parents are encouraged to maintain open, positive and frequent contact with their children. The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide that: “both parents shall have reasonable phone access to their child. Telephone communication with the child by either parent to the residence where the child is located shall be conducted at reasonable hours, shall be of reasonable duration, and at reasonable intervals, without interference from the other parent.”
If there is a landline at a parent’s home, the child should be permitted to use it to contact the other parent, or to receive calls from the other parent. If there is no landline and only a parent’s cell phone is available, then the child should be permitted to use it to speak with the other parent. And if the child has his own cell phone, the other parent should be permitted to use it to contact the child. Receiving one five- to ten-minute phone call from the other parent to ask how the child’s day went and to tell a child goodnight is appropriate. A parent keeping the child on the phone for 45 minutes is not appropriate. And a parent calling five times a day is also intrusive to the child’s and other parent’s parenting time together. Calls of that length serve to interrupt rather than support the parenting time. This behavior is not child-focused, but is parent-focused, and is not in the child’s best interests.
There will certainly be times when the child is unable to take a phone call from the other parent, such as in the case of a family vacation, or an evening movie, or sleepover with a friend. However, this does not mean that the child should not be encouraged to return the missed phone call. And it does not mean that any communication with the other parent is to be eliminated if it’s not that parent’s day. The guidelines provide, “No person shall block reasonable phone or other communication access between a parent and child or monitor such communications.” This means that if the child desires to speak with the other parent, provided it is not to provide a report or “tattle” on a parent, or to ask to end parenting time prematurely, the communication should occur, and the child should be permitted to make the call privately, and not on speakerphone around the kitchen table. When there is an anticipated conflict with the “usual” time a parent checks in with a child during the other parent’s time, the child can call ahead of time to say hello, or can text the parent instead and call the following day.
A quick check-in by phone with a child lets him or her know that the other parent is fine and can help the child relax and support a pleasant parenting time experience for the child.