Trial Court Find Mothers Proposed Relocation Not in the Best Interest of Child

Case: In Re: the Marriage of Tina M. Harpenau v. Robin P. Harpenau
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court was within its discretion when it granted Father’s petition to modify custody based upon Mother’s proposed relocation, and when it modified child support as well. The record supported the trial court’s conclusion that Mother’s proposed relocation was not in the children’s best interests.

Mother and Father divorced in Perry County in 2013, with two minor children. The parties agreed to joint legal custody, with Mother having primary physical custody. Shortly thereafter, Mother filed a Notice of Intent to Relocate to Scott County, so that she could move in with her boyfriend and to be closer to Mother’s place of work.  Father’s objected to the proposed relocation, citing his belief that the schools would be inferior, his own increased drive time to see the children, and a concern about criminal activity around the house into which Mother proposed moving.

After a hearing, the trial court concluded that Mother’s proposed relocation was offered in good faith and for a legitimate reason, but that it did not serve the best interests of the children. Thus, the trial court awarded Father primary physical custody and gave Mother the parenting time schedule that Father had prior to the modification. The trial court also modified child support, running its own child support calculation based upon the Decree’s income figures for the parties, and ordering Mother to pay $119/wk based upon the court’s calculation. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the record and found ample evidence to support the trial court’s findings concerning the best interests of the children: there was limited information about the duration or seriousness of Mother’s relationship with the man she proposed moving in with; Father lives on a 160-acre parcel shared with other family members; and, the lack of relationships the children (or Mother) had in Scott County.  Thus, the modification and denial of Mother’s proposed relocation with the children was not an abuse of discretion.

The Court also concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it modified child support. The court used the same income figures from the worksheet that was attached to the parties’ recent 2013 Decree. Father testified at the hearing that the numbers had not changed since, and Mother failed to offer any conflicting testimony or evidence, or a child support worksheet of her own. The modification of child support was not error.

The trial court’s order was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In re the Marriage of Tina M. Harpenau v. Robin P. Harpenau


James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at

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