In Indiana, a parent cannot simply pick up and move with a child that is subject to a child custody order, even if the parent in question has been granted primary custody. After all, the rights of the non-custodial parent need to be recognized as well.
Fortunately, Indiana law contains several procedures and guidelines for dealing with these types of child custody disputes - procedures that must be followed before a parent can lawfully relocate to another residence with his or her child.
First, as noted in both the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines and state statute, a parent must send notice of his or her relocation to the non-relocating parent at least 90 days before the proposed move. This notice must include:
- The specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child
- The date that the relocating parent intends to move
- The physical address of the intended new residence, as well as the mailing address, if different
- The telephone number of the intended new residence and any other applicable phone numbers
- Notice that the non-relocating parent may file a petition to modify custody, parenting time or child support
- Notice that the non-relocating parent has 60 days to file an objection to the child's relocation
Objecting to a child relocation in Indiana
If the non-relocating parent fails to file his or her motion to prevent the relocation within the 60 days allotted, the other parent will be permitted to move with the child. However, if a motion is timely filed, an evidentiary hearing will be held to determine whether to allow the child relocation or not.
Specifically, during this hearing, the relocating parent will have the initial burden of proving that his or her proposed move is being done for a legitimate reason and in good faith. If this burden is met, the non-relocating parent must then prove that the proposed relocation is not in the best interests of the child.
Additionally, as referenced above, a non-relocating parent may also file a motion to modify child custody upon receiving notice of the proposed move. And, while a relocation does not necessarily require a modification of child custody, if a non-relocating parent elects to seek custody in response to a notice to relocate, the court will typically consider the following factors:
- The distance involved in the proposed move
- The hardship and expense for the non-relocating parent to exercise his or her parenting time or visitation rights
- The likelihood of preserving the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent through viable parenting arrangements, taking into account financial circumstances of the parties
- Any established pattern of conduct on the part of the relocating parent to either promote or thwart the other parent's contact with the child
- The reasons provided by the relocating parent for the move as well as the reasons offered by the non-relocating parent opposing the move
- Any other factor that may impact the child's best interests
As this article illustrates, child relocation cases can be quite complex in Indiana, which is why it is often best to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney if you are embroiled in such a dispute. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the confusing laws and fully explain your rights and option s.