While going through an Indiana divorce can often be a difficult and emotionally draining experience, the period following a divorce or paternity case can frequently prove to be just as challenging if a child is involved - particularly when one of the parents wants to relocate with that child.
In circumstances such as this, it is quite common in Indiana for child custody disputes to arise between the custodial and non-custodial parents. For instance, although the custodial parent wishing to relocate may have a legitimate reason to move - such as a new job - that does little to quell the fears of the non-custodial parent that he or she will not be able to spend as much time with the child due to the move. Fortunately, however, there are several laws in Indiana that address the issue of child relocation directly.
While there are no laws in Indiana that can prevent a custodial parent from moving, there are statutes that restrict the ability of this parent to take a child with them without first giving proper notice. Specifically, Indiana law dictates that a custodial parent must first file a "notice of the intent to relocate" with the court at least 90 days before the proposed relocation with a child. This notice must include details regarding the new intended address, a statement outlining the reasons for the relocation, as well as a proposed revised child custody arrangement.
Importantly, following the filing of this notice, the non-custodial parent only has 60 days to file an objection with the court; otherwise, the custodial parent will be permitted to move with the child. If, however, the non-custodial parent files an objection, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not to grant the relocation.
During the hearing, the burden first falls upon the custodial parent to prove that the proposed relocation is being done in good faith and for a "legitimate reason." If this requirement is met, the burden then shifts to the non-custodial parent to show that the planned move is not in the best interests of the child.
When determining the best interests of the child, the court typically has a great deal of discretion. For example, the court can examine how the move will impact the relationship of the child with the non-custodial parent, although Indiana courts have held in the past that there is no blanket rule that a relocation is always against the best interests of the child merely because it deprives one of the parents of time with the child. Ultimately, however, the question of "best interests" is quite dependent upon the facts of each particular case.
Given the potential complexity of Indiana child relocation cases, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney if you are a divorced parent or custodial parent involving a paternity case currently considering a move, or alternatively, you are a divorced or non-custodial parent seeking to stop your child's other parent from moving with the child. A skilled attorney can assist in reviewing the circumstances of your dispute and help determine your rights and options given your situation.