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.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
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

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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 www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Family Law Case Review0 Comments

36th Annual Judge Robert H. Staton Indiana Law Update, Sept. 23-24, 2014

Indiana Law Update 2014: The Tradition of Excellence Continues

36th Annual Judge Robert H. Staton Indiana Law Update, Sept. 23-24, 2014

Last week on September 23-24, a record attendence gathered in six locations around the state to experience this year’s Judge Robert H. Staton Indiana Law UpdateTM program. This was the 36th year for the program. It has become known for its scholarly and enjoyable review of the substantive trends, changes and developments in Indiana Law.

This year’s program presented comprehensive updates in 18 areas of practice. Led by the Hon. Melissa S. May from the Indiana Court of Appeals, the program featured 21 presenters, 8 of which were new to the program for 2014. The mix of personalities, presentation styles, topical variety and humor sprinkled in along the way help to make it one of the most popular CLE events each year.

One of the hallmarks of the Indiana Law UpdateTM program is the law student scholarship contribution. Each of the four accredited law schools in Indiana benefit from the program.

If you missed this year’s live program, there are still many opportunities to attend it through a multitude of video replays occurring around the state. Click Here for the site nearest you. The planning for next year’s program is already well underway. It will occur on September 9-10, 2015. The live in-person session will be in the Sagamore Ballroom of the Indiana Convention Center. As was the case the last two years, there will also be many live group webcast locations available around the state. Make plans now and mark your calendars for the Original Indiana Law UpdateTM program for 2015!

36th Annual Judge Robert H. Staton Indiana Law Update, Sept. 23-24, 2014: An ICLEF 12 CLE Seminar

 

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Modification of Primary & Legal Custody From Mother to Father, Due in Part to Mothers Micromanaging

Case: In Re: The Marriage of Ann (Sutton) Baker v. Milo Sutton
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court’s modification of primary physical and legal custody of the parties’ 15-year-old son from Mother, to Father, was not error where the record supported findings that the child wanted to live with Father, that Child and Father had grown much closer in recent years, and that Mother was micromanaging Child’s life.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced in 1999, with Mother awarded sole legal and primary physical custody of the parties’ only child, subject to Father having Guidelines parenting time.

In 2013, Father filed a petition to modify custody. He also requested that the trial court conduct an in camera interview, which the trial court undertook.

The trial court subsequently issued an order that focused on the evolution of the Child’s relationship with Father since the Decree was issued. The trial court found that relationship had matured, and the common interests between Father and Child grew substantially (golf, computers, etc.). In the past year, Child began initiating much of the communication with Father. The trial court’s order was also critical of Mother, citing that she forced Child to continue to participate in many extra-curricular activities in which he was no longer interested, and that she was a “helicopter mom.”

In short, the trial court concluded: “Mother is trying to control the person that [Child] is developing into, and he will never be truly happy unless [Child] determines who that person is. Father, on the other hand, seems to understand the concept of giving [Child] some space.”  The trial court modified custody to sole legal custody and primary physical custody with Father. Mother appealed.

Much of the Court of Appeals’ analysis focused on the role that Child’s wishes played in the trial court’s order. The Court rejected Mother’s argument that Child’s expressed wishes should not control the outcome of the case; the Court of Appeals noted that a child’s wishes is a legitimate factor of consideration and, in this case, there were other factors supporting the modification, as well.  Child had grown closer to Father in recent years, and Child had a good relationship with the members of Father’s current family. The Court also acknowledged Mother’s argument that Child’s stability was an important factor, but that stability did not justify overriding other factors that supported the modification.

The trial court’s modification of custody was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: In Re: The Marriage of Ann (Sutton) Baker v. Milo Sutton

_________________________________________________________________________________

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 www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Family Law Case Review, News0 Comments

Best of ICLEF 2014 – A Special Video Replay/Webcast Presentation – October 8

ICLEF has assembled a special video replay and webcast event that includes some of our more popular CLE presentations thus far in 2014 for an event entitled Best of ICLEF.

The topics vary with multiple disciplines of the practice represented, but the quality of the presentations remains consistently high. This compilation of well regarded ICLEF faculty and presentations includes discussions in the areas of Estate Planning, Charitable Giving, Auto Accident Litigation, Family Law and Bankruptcy.

A great way to survey the finest ICLEF has to offer, the Best of ICLEF is a great opportunity to catch up on the issues of the day, relevant to your practice, taught by some of the best Indiana practitioners.

BEST OF ICLEF
Up To 6 CLE / 1 E. – Wednesday , October 8

IN-PERSON SEMINAR
-ICLEF Conference Facility, Indianapolis

INDIVIDUAL WEBCAST
- From your home or office computer

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Highlighted Seminars0 Comments