Mother Allowed to Take Daughter to China, Awarded Sole Custody

Family Law Case Review
Case: Charles Kietzman v. Amanda S. Kietzman
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted Mother’s request to relocate with Daughter to China for three years and, as part of the relocation, awarded sole legal custody to Mother.

Father and Mother divorced in 2010 with one child, Daughter. After the divorce, Mother had a second child with Stepfather, whom she married. Stepfather’s employer offered Stepfather an opportunity to move to China for three years to train local personnel. If Mother, Daughter, and Mother’s child with Stepfather all moved to China with Stepfather, they would live in a special compound populated by families of international businesses, and the children would have an opportunity to attend an international school. Around the same time as this move was being considered, Daughter was diagnosed with ADD and Mother and Father disagreed over whether to treat her with medication.

In October 2012, Mother filed a petition for permission to relocate with Daughter to China for three years. The trial court held a hearing, at which Daughter’s interests were represented by a GAL. Testimony was also heard from Daughter’s pediatrician. After the hearing, the trial court granted Mother’s three-year relocation request, but also provided for Father to have parenting time with Daughter three times per year: twice with Daughter returning to the U.S., as well as one opportunity per year for Father to visit Daughter in China. The trial court’s order also provided for liberal telephone, Skype, and other communication opportunities. Finally, the trial court ordered that Mother should have sole legal custody of Daughter so that Mother could make quick medical and other decisions concerning Daughter while she was in China. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed Indiana’s relocation statute and its burden-shifting provision. The Court also noted the Indiana law that custody may be changed as part of a relocation. Reviewing the record, the Court of Appeals found ample evidence to support the trial court’s finding that Mother’s proposed relocation was made in good faith, and that the relocation was in Daughter’s best interests. Father’s appeal was purely an invitation to reweigh the evidence.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Charles Kietzman v. Amanda S. Kietzman 


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