In Indiana, the custodial parent must notify the non-custodial parent and the court prior to relocating with the minor children, whether it’s a move across the country or across the street.
If you are the non-custodial parent, you may have encountered the following situation: your ex-spouse tells you that she has received a job offer in another state. One of your immediate thoughts is likely, “What does this mean for our children and my parenting time?”
As the non-custodial parent, you have a few options on how to address relocation.
Notice of Intent to Relocate
Indiana Code § 31-17-2.2-1 and § 31-17-2.2-3 require the custodial parent to file a Notice of Intent to Relocate with the court 90 days prior to moving. Once the notice is filed, the non-custodial parent has 60 days to file an Objection to Relocation with the court.
A judge cannot legally prevent the parent from moving, but he or she can prohibit the children from relocating if it is not in the children’s best interests. Please note that you must file the Objection within 60 days or the custodial parent is automatically permitted to move with the children.
Objection to Relocation
As a non-custodial parent, you have the right to object to the relocation if said relocation will have an effect on your parenting time. So, if your ex plans to move eight hours away and wants to take the children as well, then you have a decision to make regarding whether you will consent to the children relocating.
If you do choose to object, the court will set the matter for a hearing. The judge considers relocation issues pursuant to Indiana Code § 31-17-2.2-5.
The relocating parent must first show that the proposed relocation is being made in good faith and for a legitimate reason. Depending on the judge on your case, this threshold burden of proof can sometimes be a rather low bar for the custodial parent to surpass. A legitimate reason can range anywhere from obtaining a better paying job, to relocating for a fiancé, to moving closer to family.
Once the custodial parent meets this initial burden of proof, then the burden shifts to the non-custodial parent to show that the relocation is not in the best interest of the child. As with many family law issues, determining whether a reason is legitimate, and whether the relocation is not in the child’s best interests, is in the judge’s discretion.
There are many different arguments that you can point to in support of objecting to relocation. Each reasoning obviously depends on the specific facts of any given case, but generally speaking:
- If the relocation will deprive you of significant parenting time, thus possibly harming your relationship with your child;
- if you have legitimate reasons to believe that the custodial parent will not facilitate maintaining a long-distance relationship between you and the child;
- if the child has strong ties to the community; or
- if the child is older (i.e. teens) and does not wish to relocate
Then you can present these arguments to the judge to provide reasons that relocation would not be in the child’s best interests.
Other arguments can be made depending on the issues in your case, but these are a few common concerns non-custodial parents have when a custodial parent requests to relocate a significant distance. It is important to also keep in mind that an objection also usually means notifying the court that you would be willing and able to be the primary custodial parent for the child if the other parent is not permitted to move the child with her.
If, on the other hand, you are supportive of the custodial parent relocating with the child, or at least do not wish to object, you will still want to address the unavoidable effect that a long-distance relocation will have on your parenting time.
Parenting Time Where Distance is a Major Factor
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide a sample parenting time schedule for “Parenting Time Where Distance is a Major Factor.”
The non-custodial parent essentially receives a majority of any “break” time the child has from school, such as seven weeks in the summer, Spring Break and Fall Break, and a week at Christmas. Additionally, if you ever travel to the city where the child is residing, or if the child is visiting your area, then you should receive liberal parenting time during those times as well.
In some cases, if the relocation is only a few hours away, the court may apply the schedule where distance is a major factor, but also grant you additional weekends throughout the year as well.
The courts will often encourage as much parenting time as is feasible given the geographical distance between the parent and child, while taking into account that the child will likely have some activities in his or her local area which can provide enrichment to the child’s life as well, thus requiring the child to have some weekends and “off” times at their primary residence.
Ultimately, a proposed relocation usually calls for significant reflection regarding what is best for your child and what you wish to do to keep your child with you.
As each case’s arguments vary depending on the specific facts of your case, it is best to consult with an Indiana family law attorney regarding your options as soon as you are put on notice that your ex may try to move with your child.
Your Indiana divorce lawyer can help you evaluate your case, so that you can formulate your thoughts regarding what you feel is best for you and your child.
Read related article: “Non-Custodial Parent Relocation in Indiana“