The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the modification of a custody order giving the father primary custody of his son, finding the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in deciding that the boy’s physical and mental/academic maturation constituted a substantial change warranting the change in custody.
In In Re the Paternity of C.S.: M.R. (Mother) v. R.S. (Father), No. 53A01-1108-JP-381, mother M.R. appealed the change in modification that gave father R.S. primary custody of their son, C.S. The parents were never married, but when they split up, they entered into an agreed entry, approved by the trial court, to share joint legal and equal physical custody of the boy. M.R., who is in the Active Army Reserves, took a job at Fort Knox. C.S. would split time with his mother there and his father in Bloomington. Both agreed that C.S. was ready to begin kindergarten, but M.R. wanted the boy to split his time between both locations so that he would be enrolled in two schools.
R.S. requested primary physical custody, which the trial court granted. The judge found the father’s more flexible schedule and the fact C.S. has lived in Bloomington his whole life in support of his decision. The judge also concluded that beginning kindergarten in 2011 – instead of waiting another a year as M.R. later argued – was in C.S.’ best interests.
The COA affirmed the trial court’s finding that C.S.’ academic needs and abilities have substantially changed and he has reached an age that warrants a change in physical custody. That change is clearly in C.S.’ best interests, wrote Judge Carr Darden.
The judges also found the trial court didn’t misinterpret Indiana Code 31-17-2-21.3, which outlines factors surrounding custody and active duty service. M.R.’s service doesn’t show the impermanency contemplated in the statute, wrote the judge, as she cannot be deployed to a combat zone.
The trial court didn’t err in relying on an updated custody evaluation.