In a previous blog post, Julie Camden of Camden & Meridew, P.C. outlined the initial steps and requirements to move to a new residence when subject to an Indiana custody order, parenting time order, or grandparent visitation order. But what happens when the one side objects to the notice of relocation? The test in such circumstances has many facets, but can be logical to follow once all the pieces are laid out on the table.
First, the individual that would like to relocate has the burden of proof that the proposed relocation is made in good faith and for a legitimate reason according to IC 31-17-2.2-5(c). In other words, the ball is in the court for the parent/custodian that would like to move to give credible evidence for their reasoning to move. So, what does it mean to be “made in good faith and for a legitimate reason?” Indiana Court of Appeals has answered that question in the case Nelson v Nelson, 10 N.E.3d 1283, (Ind. Ct. App 2014) which states, “In general, our court has found that employment opportunities, financial considerations, and proximity to family are legitimate reasons to justify a relocation.” Specifically, in the Nelson case, the Court stated that the Mother’s requested relocation to be closer to family and for a job opportunity qualified as a good faith and legitimate reason. But, having a good faith and legitimate reason is not the only step in the test.
Second, if the relocating individual has a valid reason, the one objecting to the move now has to prove that the relocation is not in the best interest of the child (I.C. 31-17-2.2-5(d)). Though “best interest of the child” may seem like an undefined and overly board term, Indiana law has outlined several factors to consider when deciding according to the best interest of the child. Specifically, according to IC 31-17-2.2-1, the relocation factors are as follows: (1) The distance involved in the proposed relocation, (2) The expense involved for the non-relocating parent to exercise visitation, (3) The feasibility of preserving the relationship of the nonrelocating individual and the child through visitation, (4) Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by the relocating individual to thwart the non-relocating parent’s contact with the child, (5) The reasons provided by the relocating parent for the relocation, and (6) Other factors affecting the best interest of the child. These others factors include (1) Age and sex of the child, (2) Wishes of the parents, (3) Wishes of the child, (4) Interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parents, siblings, and other people who may significantly affect the child’s best interest, (5) The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, (6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, (7) Evidence of domestic abuse, and (8) evidence of a de facto custodian.
As an example of when an individual could past the legitimate reason prong of the test, but fail the best interest of the child prong, let’s go back to the Nelson case. In the Nelson case, the Court reaffirmed the Trial Court’s decision that the move would not be in the best interests of the child. The Court stated several factors including a ten hour one-way drive, leaving behind father’s extended family, the child leaving behind his school and friends where he is thriving, the child’s wish to stay with his father, and mother’s indifference that Father should have a relationship with the child were valid factors when considering the best interest of the child. So, even though the Mother had good reasons for moving to South Carolina for herself, everything balanced out so that the child still needed to stay in Indiana with his father.
Thus, even though, many factors go into making a decision when deciding a contested relocation request, it all gets simplified into having a legitimate reason to move and what is in the best interests of the child.
Julie Camden of Camden & Meridew, P.C. practices in the area of family law and represents both custodial and noncustodial parents in relocation cases. If you are in need of an experienced family law attorney you can trust, call Julie at 317-770-0000 or complete our online contact form today.
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