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Judges disagree whether mother’s relocation is in good faith

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A panel on the Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday couldn’t agree whether a northern Indiana mother’s decision to relocate with her two children was made in good faith. The majority upheld her request to relocate.

In Geoffrey A. Gilbert v. Melinda J. Gilbert, 57A03-1308-DR-312, Geoffrey Gilbert appealed the grant of his ex-wife’s petition to relocate with their two minor children. Melinda Gilbert wanted to relocate because she needed a bigger house for her two children with Geoffrey Gilbert, her new child with her fiancé and her fiance’s child who lived with them occasionally. She said she was unable to find a home that accommodated their needs in Albion and decided to relocate to Goshen, approximately 30 miles from Geoffrey Gilbert.

Judges Patricia Riley and Michael Barnes affirmed the grant of Melinda Gilbert’s petition to relocate, finding the record clearly supports the conclusion that she sought to relocate in good faith. She worked to alleviate her ex-husband’s inconvenience by staying relatively close to his home in Albion, he works in Goshen, and his two older children from a previous marriage live in Middlebury and attend the same school system that the younger Gilbert children would.

Also, the majority noted the amount of time the children would spend with their father was not going to change regardless of whether the trial court approved or denied their mother’s request to relocate.

“Therefore, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting Mother’s relocation request because Father failed to prove that it was not in the Children’s best interests,” Riley wrote.

Judge Margret Robb dissented, writing she didn’t believe Melinda Gilbert desired to relocate in good faith. Robb said the record doesn’t support moving to a better school district as a good faith and legitimate reason for her proposed relocation as Melinda Gilbert gave no testimony about the Goshen schools.

“If simply saying, ‘I want a bigger house,’ is a good faith and legitimate reason for relocating, then we have gone too far in the opposite direction of setting too high a bar for the relocating parent to meet, we have set no bar whatsoever,” Robb wrote.

The majority affirmed the denial of appellate attorney fees for Melinda Gilbert.
 

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