Makris & Zoeller: How relocation statute changes affect child custody orders

Zoeller

Makris

When a parent with a child custody order plans to move, Indiana Code 31-17-2.2 sets out the requirements that they must follow in order to provide the nonrelocating parent with notice of their intended relocation. Amendments to the relocation statute that took effect on July 1 bring changes to filing deadlines, notice procedure, and to whom the law applies.

Amendments broaden scope of who must provide notice

The new law brought about by Senate Enrolled Act 292 applies to all individuals who have custody or parenting time, or who have filed an action to establish it. The new law will affect more people than before due to its inclusion of parents who have custody or parenting time through a signed paternity affidavit. This change significantly broadens the scope of who may be obligated to file a notice of relocation or a response thereto.

New standards for when a notice of relocation must be filed

Prior to July 1, 2019, a notice of intent to relocate was required regardless of the distance involved in the intended move, whether the parent was planning to move across the street from their current residence or across the state. The new law sets out specific circumstances in which a notice must be filed, and the exceptions that exempt them from the requirement. These changes were needed as the prior statute caused unnecessary legal fees when someone moving only a mile away was forced to file a notice of relocation that occasionally triggered new custody or parenting time battles.

Beginning July 1, 2019, a relocating parent is not required to file a notice if the relocation has already been addressed in a court order, if the relocation will decrease the distance between the parents’ residences, or if the move will not increase the distance between the parents’ residences by more than 20 miles and the child will be able to remain enrolled in his or her current school. Any party may request a hearing to modify the order for custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation or child support regardless of whether the relocating party is required to file a formal notice.

The notice period has been considerably reduced from 90 days to 30 days before the date of the relocating party’s intended move, or less than 14 days after they become aware of the relocation, whichever is sooner.

Even if the relocating party is not required to file a notice, the new law specifies that any individual who has or is seeking custody, parenting time, or grandparent visitation with a child must keep all other individuals who have or are seeking rights with the child informed of their home address and all telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. This information must be provided in writing, which may be by text message or e-mail. If the court finds that disclosure of information related to the relocation, whether through formal or informal notice, creates a significant risk of substantial harm to the party required to provide the information or to the child, the court may order that the address, telephone number, or other information not be shared with other individuals or disclosed in filings.

Information that notices must include

The notice of intent to relocate must include the new address, mailing address, all telephone numbers, the date of the intended move, a brief statement of the specific reasons for the intended relocation of the child, a statement as to whether the relocating parent believes the parenting time or grandparent visitation order needs to be modified, and a statement that the nonrelocating parent must file a response within 20 days of receiving the notice. The notice must also include that a party may file a request to prevent the temporary or permanent relocation of the child and/or a petition to modify an order regarding custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support, and that all existing orders remain in effect until the court modifies them.

Addition of guidelines for responses by nonrelocating parent

The new law requires the nonrelocating parent to file a response to the relocating parent’s notice of intent to relocate not more than 20 days after being served with the notice. In the response, the nonrelocating parent can either state 1) that they do not object to the relocation of the child and do not request to modify the current orders; 2) that they do not object to the relocation of the child, but they request a modification hearing to address the custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support order in light of the relocation; or 3) that they object to the relocation of the child and request a temporary or permanent order to prevent the child’s relocation, a modification of the custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or child support order as a result of the relocation, and a hearing on their motions. If the nonrelocating parent requests a modification of the current order due to the other parent’s relocation, the response must include whether or not the parties have attended mediation or another alternative dispute resolution process regarding the child’s relocation.

The amendments to the relocation statute bring significant changes to the procedure that parties affected by a relocation matter must abide by. Keeping clients advised of these important changes will help ensure compliance with all notice and response requirements involved with future relocations.•

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Nicole Makris and Brian Zoeller are attorneys at Cohen & Malad P.C. in Indianapolis. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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