The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a mother’s request to modify a custody order entered in 2007 when her children were in grade school, finding their participation in travel soccer leagues and the distance between the parents’ homes warrants a change.
The court also noted how the guardian ad litem on the case believed if the custody arrangement wasn’t modified, it would “irreparably harm” the father’s relationship with his two children.
The arrangement in place between mother L.C. and father T.M. had the children spending Mondays, Tuesdays and alternate weekends with their father in Mooresville. The mother lived in Carmel, where the now teens are enrolled in school and play in travel soccer leagues. Also as part of the custody order, mother is to enroll the children in spring sports and father to enroll them in fall sports.
L.C. signed her son up for travel soccer in the spring of 2012; her daughter was already playing on Carmel’s travel team. She sought to modify the physical custody arrangement to better accommodate the children’s schedules, travel distance and difficulties the kids had when staying with their father. They felt they were treated worse than their step-siblings.
The trial court ruled the mother’s enrollment of her son in the travel league that lasted an entire year violated the custody arrangement that mother enroll the children in spring sports and father enroll them in fall sports. It also held she didn’t prove a substantial change had occurred to warrant modification.
“In our view, the trial court’s determination that the parties should remain bound to their shared physical custody arrangement, despite the intervening changes that affect the children’s welfare and best interest, cannot stand,” Judge John Baker wrote in In Re: the Marriage of L.C. v. T.M., 32A01-1303-DR-91. The judges remanded for an order to be entered based on the evidence presented that modifies the custody arrangement in accordance with the children’s best interests.
The appellate court also noted it was mindful of the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision in D.C. v. J.A.C., 977 N.E.2d 951, 956 (Ind. 2012), that admonishes against appellate reversal of custody orders and reminds that great deference should be afforded to trial courts in custody matters. But, Baker wrote, the court doesn’t believe that the rationale in the opinion stands for the idea that an appellate court is unable to reverse decisions that do not serve the best interests of the children and promote stability.