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Parenting Time Cannot be Bargained Away

In a recent decision by the Indiana Supreme Court, the Court struck down a deal between parents who attempted to bargain away child support in exchange for no parenting time as void.  Mother and Father agreed that Father would give up his parenting time if Mother would not pursue him for child support or an outstanding arrearage. The Indiana Supreme Court noted that any agreement to contract away child support rights is directly contrary to the public policy of protecting the welfare of children and is therefore void.  The Court observed that the right to child support lies exclusively with the child and the custodial parent holds these payments in trust for the child's benefit.  Visitation rights and child support rights cannot be commingled, but must be treated as separate rights.

Further, the Court noted that parenting time can never be restricted unless parenting time might endanger a child's physical health or impair the child's emotional development.  Absent proof that the father would endanger the child, there was no reason for his parenting time to be denied or restricted.  Justice David of the Indiana Supreme Court observed: "The concept of parents negotiating away parenting time as a means to eliminate the obligation to pay child support is repugnant and contrary to public policy.  Attorneys should refuse to be a part of such discussion and should advise their clients that any such discussion is unacceptable."

See Perkinson v Perkinson, 989 N.E.2d 758 (Ind.2013) for the complete decision.

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