COA affirms order that child should remain in Indiana with father

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Although the trial court erred in concluding that a Johnson County mother did not relocate to South Carolina for legitimate reasons, the court correctly ordered her son to remain in Indiana with his father, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Traci Nelson, after being let go from her medical sales job, sought employment in South Carolina due to a non-compete clause in her previous job’s contract. She chose South Carolina because she had a job opportunity and family in that state. In 2010 she filed a notice with the court that she would move to South Carolina, and she made the move with her five-year-old son before the court approved.

Tony Nelson was awarded temporary custody in 2011 and then sole physical custody after a hearing in 2013. Traci Nelson was awarded parenting time. The trial court found her relocation was not made in good faith and the move is not in the best interest of the child.

In Traci Nelson v. Tony Nelson, 41A01-1309-DR-424, the Court of Appeals held the lower court erred in concluding Traci Nelson didn’t move in good faith. It pointed to evidence she presented that she had many family members – including her parents – in South Carolina and that she would be able to help take care of her ailing mother. The judges also pointed to her attempts to start a new career in the state as a physical therapist.

But the trial court was correct in ordering their son to remain in Indiana with his father, the judges ruled. The 10-hour drive one-way would diminish the father-son bond, the boy had family in Indiana, and he wanted to live with his father. The trial court’s conclusion that the Relocation Statute factors disfavored relocation and merit a change in custody to father was not clearly erroneous, the COA ruled.


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