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Court Clarifies Rules for Relocating with a Child

Childrearing is a tremendously difficult task, made even more difficult if the parents divorce. Although, legally, each parent is still responsible for the child, in actuality, parents also want to be able to live their lives. Not wanting, obviously, to shirk their responsibilities, parents will typically do what is necessary to provide for their children. Accordingly, for various reasons, which may include a better paying job or moving to a different location, a custodial parent may attempt to relocate with the child, potentially leaving the non-custodial parent without easy access to the child.

Retaining the services of an experienced family law attorney can be a crucial element to ensuring that, if you are the parent relocating, you are fully and legally able to do so. If you are the non-custodial parent, a lawyer can help you ensure that the relocation still meets the terms of the parenting agreement and that you can maintain access to your child. Recently, an Indiana Court of Appeals visited the issue of what must be done to request a change in child custody as a result of a child relocation. A discussion of this decision, as well as what one must do to be permitted to relocate with a child, will follow below.

Relocation Requirements

Pursuant to Indiana law, a divorced parent who wishes to relocate must file a notice of his or her intent to relocate with the clerk of the court. Additionally, that parent must send a copy of the notice to the other parent. Once this notice is received, one of the parties may petition the court to consider whether to review and modify any appropriate custody, parenting time, or child support order. In determining whether to modify one of these orders in response to a relocation request, the court will take into account the following factors:

  • The reasons provided by the relocating parent for seeking relocation;
  • The reasons provided by the non-relocating parent for opposing relocation;
  • The distance involved in the relocation;
  • Any hardship and expense involved for the non-relocating parent to exercise parenting time or grandparent visitation;
  • The ability to preserve the relationship between the non-relocating parent and the child through suitable parenting time and grandparent visitation arrangements, including consideration of the financial circumstances of the parents;
  • Whether the relocation is being used to thwart the non-relocating parent’s contact with the child; and
  • Any other factor affecting the best interests of the child.

The issue presented to the Indiana Court of appeals was whether the act of providing a notice of intent to relocate by the relocating parent also acted as a request that the court consider whether to review and modify the standing custody order. After noting that the father, the non-relocating parent, did not petition the court, the Court of Appeals stated that the mother’s actions did not count as a petition. Thus, the Court held that there must be an affirmative act to request modification of any divorce-related order, including relocation notices and requests.

Rights of the Non-Relocating Parent

Within 60 days of receiving the notice to relocate, the non-relocating parent can submit an objection to the relocation if the relocation will affect the non-relocating parent’s parenting time. If this objection is timely filed, the court will set the matter for a hearing. At the hearing, the relocating parent has the initial burden of showing that the proposed relocation is being made in good faith and for a legitimate reason. Afterwards, the non-relocating parent is permitted to show how the proposed relocation is not in the best interests of the child. Working with an experienced attorney can ensure that a parent’s argument for or against relocation is the most effective.

Speak to an Indiana Family Law Attorney

If you are considering relocating with your child, or you are curious whether your former spouse can relocate with your child, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Co-parenting as a divorced couple is difficult enough, even without having the deal with a great distance between you and your former spouse. Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. has years of experience in all family law issues, including child relocation, and is here to help you through your circumstances to get the best possible result. Contact the Brownsburg family law firm at (317) 745-4494 to schedule an appointment.

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