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

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Aviation Law – Thursday, October 16

ICLEF is pleased to announce that this year’s Aviation Law seminar is once again being held in conjunction with the Aviation Association of Indiana’s Annual Fall Convention (AAI). The convention will take place at the popular Belterra Casino Resort that offers a fun setting for golf or gaming when not attending the conference. For more information or to register for the AAI convention, please contact Kim Purucker at (317) 255-3930 or visit the AAI website for more annual convention details at

Leading our program this year is Todd A. Dixon, Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Among the notable discussion leaders joining Todd will be Michala Irons, Brian Kersey, Tim Maher and Clifford Maine. All our presenters practice regularly within the area of aviation and are developing some very diverse and interesting topics for our discussion such as, aviation tax regulation and risk management, aircraft financing, FAA “drone” regulations and emergency response planning issues.

With an insightful and interactive session planned, the program will fill up quickly. We look forward to seeing you October 16th at Belterra Casino Resort!

Held in conjunction with the Aviation Association of Indiana’s Annual Fall Convention
3.75 CLE – October 16     8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

- Belterra Casino Resort, Florence, IN

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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.

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

-ICLEF Conference Facility, Indianapolis

- From your home or office computer

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Practical Tips for Estate Planning & Administration, Thursday October 2

Even if your practice isn’t focused in the area of estate planning, at one time or another you have probably been asked to draft a client’s will or create a trust. Our program examines the estate planning process in a very practical and manner, addressing some of the most fundamental aspects of the process. From the Client Interview to the Probate Transfers and eve Medicaid issues, our experienced faculty of estate planners will address these issues you will commonly encounter along the way.

Practical Tips for Estate Planning & Administration
6 CLE – Thursday, October 2, 2014   9:00 A.M. – 4:30 P.M. (Eastern)

- ICLEF Conference Facility, Indianapolis

- May Oberfell & Lorber, Mishawaka
- Ice Miller, Indianapolis

- From your home or office computer

- Available statewide after Live Seminar date


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