You and your spouse have divorced. You spent hours reaching a settlement agreement in mediation, and while the process was hard, you feel the final settlement was fair. You have settled into parenting post-divorce and are enjoying your new relationship with your children when you get the call that your ex-spouse intends to relocate with the children to another state, and you won’t be able to see the children as much anymore.
Alternatively, you may be the custodial parent and wish to relocate for a new employment opportunity, to be closer to family, or to be with your new partner. You worry you will be stuck in this town until your children are no longer minors because of the current custody and parenting time arrangement.
Relocation is a frequent and common issue that arises post-divorce or post-establishment of paternity. As such, Indiana has established laws to deal with relocation.
Indiana requires anyone intending to relocate with a child subject to a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order to file a notice of intent to relocate with the Court before moving with the child. If an initial custody determination has not yet occurred, the parent wishing to relocate can provide notice of relocation at the initial hearing. That parent’s intent to relocate can be considered by the Court as a factor in the initial determination of custody, parenting time, and child support.
The parent intending to relocate must send notice of intent to relocate to the nonrelocating parent not later than ninety (90) days before the date that the intended relocation is to occur, if the information is known at that time. If the information related to relocation is not known at that time, the relocating parent is required to notify the nonrelocating parent not later than ten (10) days after they obtain the required information, and the notice must be made not later than thirty (30) days before the intended move. If the relocating parent feels that notifying the nonrelocating individual of the move creates a significant risk of substantial harm to the relocating parent or child, the Court may Order that the nonrelocating individual not be notified, but this is the exception.
The intent to relocate must contain the following information: the address and telephone number of the new residence, the date of the intended relocation, a brief statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation, a proposal for a revised schedule of parenting time or grandparent visitation with the child, a statement that the nonrelocating individual must file an objection to the relocation within sixty (60) days, and a statement that a nonrelocating individual may file a petition to modify a custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation, or child support order.
As the notice is to indicate, the nonrelocating individual is required to object to the relocation within sixty (60) days or they forfeit their right to object. The Court will have a hearing to hear evidence on the proposed relocation. The relocating parent has the burden of proving that the relocation is in good faith and for a legitimate reason. If the relocating parent proves this, the nonrelocating individual must prove that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child in order for the court to prohibit the child relocating.
Upon motion of either party, the Court will set a hearing to review and modify, if appropriate, the custody order, parenting time order, grandparent visitation order, or child support order currently in place when the notice of intent to relocate is filed. The court looks at the following factors when determining whether to modify an order due to a relocating parent:
- The distance involved in the proposed change of residence.
- The hardship and expense involved for the nonrelocating individual to exercise parenting time or grandparent visitation.
- The feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating individual and the child through suitable parenting time and grandparent visitation arrangements, including consideration of the financial circumstances of the parties.
- Whether there is an established pattern of conduct by the relocating individual, including actions by the relocating individual to either promote or thwart a nonrelocating individual’s contact with the child.
- The reasons provided by the:
- relocating individual for seeking relocation; and
- nonrelocating parent for opposing the relocation of the child.
- Other factors affecting the best interest of the child.
It is important to note that the Court cannot prohibit a person from relocating. It can, however, prohibit the child from relocating. If the Court orders that the child cannot relocate, and the relocating parent chooses to relocate without the child, custody and parenting time would be modified to provide the nonrelocating parent with custody. This will also affect child support.
If a parent relocates without providing the required notice, the nonrelocating parent can file for a temporary order to restrain relocation or seek an emergency hearing to address the child being brought back to the jurisdiction. Alternatively, a parent seeking to relocate can obtain a temporary order to allow relocation until a final hearing can be had on the merits if the Court finds, after an initial hearing, that there is a likelihood the relocation will be granted at the final hearing.
Indiana’s statutory provisions on relocation are meant to protect both parents’ right to parenting time and to provide a mechanism for relocations to be dealt with in a uniform manner. Whether you are the parenting wishing to relocate or the individual wanting to object to a proposed relocation, the attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff P.C. are experienced in helping individuals navigate relocations.