The short answer to the question is, it depends. Whether it be a job opportunity, family, or a change of scenery, individuals are relocating now more than ever. Relocation has become somewhat of a norm, so much so that the Indiana Legislature actually created a statutory chapter to specifically deal with relocation and its applicability to child custody. In this blog we provide a brief overview of relocation and how it can affect custody.
The first thing you need to look at is who exactly the relocation statutes apply to. According to the statute, an individual must file a notice of intent to relocate if that individual has or is seeking: (1) custody of a child; (2) parenting time with a child; or (3) grandparent’s visitation.1 As such, if you are the custodial parent, or the non-custodial parent with parenting time, or a grandparent with visitation and you intend to relocate, you must file a notice of intent. Once you file a notice of intent to relocate, the non-relocating individual will have the opportunity to object to your relocation.
If the non-relocating individual does not object, then you will be free to move with your child. If, however, the non-relocating individual does object, then the trial court will set a hearing on your proposed relocation. If the non-relocating individual objects, then courts apply a two-prong test. First, the relocating individual has the burden to prove the proposed relocation is being made in good-faith and for a legitimate reason.2 If this burden is met, the burden then shifts to the non-relocating individual to prove that the proposed relocation is not in the child’s best interests.3
The relocation statutes also provide the trial court’s factors that must be taken into consideration when determining whether to modify a custody order. Those factors include: (1) The distance involved in the proposed change of residence; (2) the hardship involved for the nonrelocating individual to exercise parenting time. . . (3) the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating individual and the child. . . including consideration of the financial circumstances of the parties; (4) whether there is an established pattern of conduct by the relocating individual, including actions by the individual to either promote or thwart a nonrelocating individual’s contact with the child; (5) the reasons provided by the: (A) relocating individual for seeking relocation; and (B) the nonrelocating parent for opposing the relocation of the child; and (6) Other factors affecting the best interest of the child.4
Ultimately, whether or not relocation will have a significant impact on custody is an extremely fact-sensitive analysis. Every individual’s situation is different, and depending on your situation, it may or may not have an impact on your custody arrangement. These types of cases can be confusing, and often times emotional. Having a skilled attorney to navigate and guide you through the murky waters is key. Presenting your relocation case in its best light or artfully arguing against relocation may make the difference in your custody position. Do you know the evidence to present on the statutory factors the courts consider? Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. do and partner with many relocating families to argue their best case. The firm practices throughout the State of Indiana and understands the complications associated with relocation and custody matters. This blog is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.