Noting that its decision should not be viewed as a punishment for either parent, a trial court denied a mother’s request to move to California with her son and ordered the boy remain in Indiana with his father. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Friday, finding the father presented evidence that supported the trial court’s decision.
Allison DeCloedt and Shane Wagaman divorced in 2011 when H.W. was two years old. DeCloedt had sole physical and legal custody of the boy with Wagaman exercising parenting time. DeCloedt remarried in July 2013 and told the court she planned to relocate to California, where her husband moved for work. Wagaman objected and, after a hearing in which the trial judge said it “preferred not to make a decision at all,” the trial court granted Wagaman’s petition to modify custody so that H.W. remained in Indiana and DeCloedt would exercise parenting time.
In a case that the Court of Appeals referred to as a “close case,” the judges affirmed. Both parents testified the other was a very good parent and there were never any issues with support or visitation prior to DeCloedt’s relocation. The trial court found that her relocation was in good faith and that father proved the proposed relocation is not in H.W.’s best interests.
The appeals judges agreed, pointing to the numerous family members H.W. has in Indiana and his current relationship with them. They rejected mother’s argument that all other things being equal, her role as primary caregiver during H.W.’s life takes precedence over the other factors the dissolution court was to consider.
“[T]he dissolution court was forced to make a very difficult decision. In the end, the dissolution court found that it is in H.W.’s best interests to stay in Indiana with his Father and future stepsiblings, with both sets of grandparents and cousins living nearby,” wrote Judge Edward Najam in Allison I. (Wagaman) DeCloedt v. Shane C. Wagaman, 92A03-1401-DR-39.