Family Law Case Review: D.C. v. J.A.C.

Case: D.C. v. J.A.C.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll  

Trial court’s order denying Mother’s request to relocate with a child from Indianapolis to Tennessee was reversed as clearly erroneous.

Mother and Father married in 1997, had Child in 2003, and divorced in 2008. By agreement, legal custody of Child was shared, with Mother having primary physical custody of Child subject to Father’s parenting time of three overnights per week plus alternating weekends.

In 2010, Mother filed a notice of intent to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee, citing a change in employment. Father filed an objection and request for change of custody. At a hearing, it was shown that Mother had an opportunity to increase her salary by over $30,000 in a position not available to her in the Indianapolis market. The trial court also heard evidence of Father’s substantial involvement in Child’s life (cub scouts, sports, schoolwork) and that Child’s grandparents were also in Indiana.

The trial court ultimately denied Mother’s requested relocation with Child, finding that, despite her notice of intent, the primary reason for the relocation was a relationship with a man in Tennessee. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the burden-shifting nature of the relocation statute and prior case law applying it. The Court concluded the substantial increase in Mother’s income would “provide additional opportunities for Mother and [Child].”  The Court acknowledged that Child’s relocation would impair Father’s frequent contact with Child, but that, if this consideration were deemed dispositive, relocation would be permitted almost never. Finally, the Court underscored that Mother had been Child’s primary caregiver, thus, the upheaval of relocating Child would be less than the upheaval of losing Child’s primary caregiver.

Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court’s denial of Mother’s relocation was clearly erroneous, and that order was reversed and remanded.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: D.C. v. J.A.C.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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