COA affirms denial of mom’s request to relocate in parenting dispute

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld an order denying a mother’s request to relocate, finding her move from South Bend to Chicago would not be in the child’s best interest.

Four months after the dissolution of marriage between Tiffani Lynn and Andrew Freeman, Lynn filed a notice of intent to move about 80 miles away from South Bend to Chicago, where her new husband had secured a job. In addition to dissolving their marriage, Lynn and Freeman settled custody and parenting time issues related to their minor son M.F.

In response to her request to relocate, Freeman timely objected and filed a motion to modify custody, of which he had parenting time exceeding that provided in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, while Lynn had primary physical custody.

Following a hearing that spanned four days and had six witnesses, the trial court issued a lengthy order denying Lynn’s request to relocate on two grounds. First, it found that although the proposed relocation was for a legitimate purpose, it was not made in good faith. Second, it concluded that the proposed relocation would not be in the child’s best interests.

The trial court’s order indicated that Freeman’s request to modify custody remained pending, with its future possibly depending on mother’s decision whether to relocate without M.F.

Lynn appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the St. Joseph Circuit Court in Tiffani L. (Freeman) Lynn v. Andrew S. Freeman, 19A-DC-2014.

“We agree with Mother that the circumstances here do not support the trial court’s determination that her proposed relocation was made in bad faith,” Judge Robert Altice wrote for the appellate court. “While the evidence supports a finding that Mother might have acted in bad faith during the mediation that resulted in the Dissolution Agreement and that she has actively sought to hinder Father’s relationship with Child, there is no evidence that the reasons she provided for needing to move were merely pretextual.”

The appellate court also found that the trial court’s detailed analysis was more applicable to the best interest inquiry.

It further concluded that the trial court’s best interest determination was well supported by the court’s findings and the evidence presented, and neither the judgment nor the findings were clearly erroneous. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order.

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