A mother who lives in Maryland but whose child lives in Hamilton County has lost her bid to relocate the child to the eastern state, with the Indiana Court of Appeals finding that awarding physical custody to the child’s Indiana father was in the child’s best interests.
After getting married in June 2013, Marva and Michael Hamilton continued to live in separate states, with Marva in Maryland and Michael in Indianapolis. Marva gave birth to the couple’s daughter, L.H., the following March, then moved to Indiana four months later and settled in Hamilton County.
Marva took a job at an Indianapolis law firm, while Michael was a firefighter/emergency medical technician. Both parents shared household duties, with Michael handling most of the child care and household duties on his days off from the firehouse. L.H. also became close with her half-siblings, I.H. and I.D., and with Michael’s parents, who lived nearby.
The couple filed for divorce in the fall of 2016 and entered into a preliminary order regarding parenting of L.H., but soon thereafter Marva decided to return to Maryland with L.H. Michael objected to the relocation and petitioned for physical custody of L.H.
A subsequent hearing revealed that Marva had already enrolled L.H. at a private school in Virginia without Michael’s knowledge. Marva also testified that she planned to return to her former government job and home in Maryland less than a week after the hearing and would move even if she were not awarded custody.
For his part, Michael told the court he could not move to Maryland because of his relationship with I.H., his son. He also expressed concern about Marva failing to communicate with him about L.H. if they moved to Maryland. After “agonizing” over a decision that would be in the best interests of L.H., the Hamilton Superior Court denied Marva’s relocation request and awarded physical custody to Michael.
Marva appealed in Marva Deskins Hamilton v. Michael Hamilton, 29A02-1710-DR-2428, but the Indiana Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s opinion. Judge Rudolph Pyle noted that L.H.’s support system is located in Indiana, and she would have more opportunities to connect with I.H. if she stayed in Indiana. Her sister, I.D., attends college in New Jersey.
“We further note that distance is a major factor in this case,” Pyle wrote. “… Because Mother’s new job offers a flexible schedule and increased earning capacity, it would be less of a hardship for mother to visit L.H. in Indianapolis than for Father to visit her in Maryland.”