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Father granted custody after mother seeks relocation

September 12, 2014

Moving from Floyd County to Scott County so a woman could be closer to her work and live with her boyfriend is not in the best interests of her two young children, the Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The judges affirmed the grant of father’s request to modify custody and child support.

Tina and Robin Harpenau, who have one child born in 2007 and one born in 2009, divorced in August 2013. They shared legal custody, with Tina Harpenau having primary physical custody. At the time of the divorce, she moved to Floyd County, which Robin Harpenau agreed to because the schools in the area are good and he was still close to his children. But two months after their divorce was finalized, Tina Harpenau filed a notice of intent to move to Scott County to live with her boyfriend. Living in Scott County would cut her commute to work significantly.

Father objected, seeking primary physical custody and that mother receive appropriate parenting time. The trial court found Tina Harpenau’s relocation was in good faith but that Robin Harpenau showed that it would not be in the children’s best interests to move. Perry Circuit Judge Lucy Goffinet cited that the kids have no family in Scott County and Tina Harpenau’s boyfriend solely owned the home she would move in to, meaning if they broke up the family would have to relocate again.

The judge ordered Tina Harpenau to have parenting time and pay child support based on the worksheets prepared during their divorce.  

She appealed in In re the Marriage of Tina M. Harpenau v. Robin P. Harpenau, 62A01-1401-DR-37.

“Here, unlike many cases, stability and permanence is promoted by the change in custody because the dissolution itself and the split custody arrangement is so new. In Father’s physical custody, the children are able to stay in a place with which they are familiar, be close to their extended family on both sides, and to continue with their current babysitter and in their current school,” Judge Margret Robb wrote. “The trial court heard the parties’ testimony and examined the evidence, ultimately finding that a relocation would be contrary to the children’s best interests. Mother essentially asks us to reweigh the evidence, which we cannot do.”

Mother failed to object when father requested the trial court take judicial notice of the child support worksheet attached to the settlement agreement entered four months earlier, so her failure to object waived her right to appeal the order on the grounds that the worksheet was unsigned and unverified, the COA held.
 

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