Relocating and Custody - Know Before You Go

By Harden Jackson, LLC on March 28, 2012
 

Attorney Lanae Harden, who chairs Harden Jackson’s Family Law Practice Group, advises those parents who are considering relocating and how to ensure you are abiding by the state statute.

Job losses and the housing market decline during this economic recession have forced many people to relocate in order to downsize their residences or to pursue new job opportunities. A move may also occur following a divorce, especially if one of the former spouses had temporary living arrangements while the sale of the marital home was pending, or subsequently as the result of remarriage.

Divorce and relocation are two of the most stressful changes in an adult’s life. Numerous details and tasks must be managed and completed. When children are involved, the focus is usually whether the change will affect their friends or which school they attend. What many parents do not realize is that their move may violate a state statute. Pursuant to Indiana law, a relocating individual must file detailed written notice of their intent to move with the clerk of the court that issued a custody or parenting time order. The notice is required well in advance of a move, and applies regardless of whether the move is across the street, across town or to a different state. Many parents have been caught by surprise by the relatively new relocation statute (particularly those who divorced prior to its adoption), and have found themselves unwittingly in violation of such.

Previously, the statute only required filing of a relocation notice when a move was greater than 100 miles or out of state. Now, notice applies to every move and must be filed 90 days before the proposed relocation. The non-relocating parent then has 60 days to object to the move or request modifications in custody or parenting time from the court relevant to the relocation. The court considers numerous factors in determining whether any such modification should be granted, including the distance involved, and whether the relocating parent is making the move in good faith and has a legitimate reason for the move. The priority of the court is to confirm that the move is in the best interests of the children. If distance is a factor, other matters must be addressed, including how the move will affect parenting time and impact the non-relocating parent’s relationship with the children. This can be a volatile subject for many parents, and the financial and emotional stresses can exacerbate the situation. However, communication and cooperation can minimize the conflict and parents may be able to negotiate an agreement and alleviate many relocation hurdles and concerns. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help either the relocating or non-relocating parent understand how the statute applies to their particular situation and develop a plan of action to address their concerns.