Mother who moved son out of state without permission loses custody, contempt appeal

A mother who took her son from Indiana to Virginia without his father’s knowledge or the court’s permission has lost her appeals of orders finding her in contempt and awarding physical custody of her child to his father.

Parents Kayley Boonstra and Daniel Corcoran share a son, K.C., who was born in 2014. Boonstra is also the mother of two other children. A 2018 paternity order regarding K.C. gave Boonstra primary physical custody while Corcoran received regular parenting time and paid $50 per week in child support.

Boonstra got married four months later, and her husband enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. She told the Cass Circuit Court in March 2019 that her husband would be stationed in Virginia and that she intended to relocate with him. She also claimed that she could maintain homes in both Indiana and Virginia.

Corcoran objected, and the trial court denied Boonstra’s petition to relocate. Boonstra relocated without the child, and Corcoran in October 2019 moved to modify custody. He argued that he had been caring for K.C. since Boonstra relocated and sought a modification of child support and parenting time.

Boonstra, however, filed a second petition to relocate. While the case was pending, Boonstra picked up K.C. from his paternal grandparents’ home and boarded a plane with him without Corcoran’s knowledge. K.C. remained in Virginia for roughly three months.

Corcoran responded with two contempt citations, and a newly-appointed special judge held her in contempt and denied her second petition to relocate. Corcoran was awarded physical custody, while Boonstra was ordered to pay $5,406 in attorney fees plus $123 a month in child support.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in full on Tuesday, with Judge Rudolph Pyle first pointing to Boonstra’s initial claim that she could maintain homes in Indiana and Virginia. That promise did not come to fruition, and when later questioned by the trial court, Boonstra claimed “she had simply said whatever she could to keep her kids together.”

“Here, the trial court found that, ‘[t]hough not likely rising to the level of perjury, Mother had no intention of staying in Indiana, nor was the same financially viable to her and her family,’” Pyle wrote. “The evidence supports this finding.

“Further, because Mother had never planned to stay in Indiana with her three children and had always intended to relocate to Virginia with Stepfather, Mother has failed to meet her burden to demonstrate that her relocation to Virginia was a substantial change in one or more of the relocation factors,” Pyle continued. “Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying Mother’s second petition to relocate.”

As to the modification of custody, the appellate panel agreed with the trial court that Boonstra’s relocation 800 miles away was a “substantial change” in circumstances, especially given K.C.’s age and the fact that he could not meaningfully use social media to communicate with his family in Indiana at that age. What’s more, K.C. was close to his father and grandparents and had been enrolled in preschool in Indiana, where his father was engaged in his educational progress.

“We further note that Mother’s act of keeping K.C. in Virginia for three months undermined K.C.’s relationship with Father. The totality of the evidence supports the trial court’s determination that a modification of custody was in K.C.’s best interests,” the panel held.

The COA further agreed with the trial court that Boonstra had brought a groundless action warranting the award of attorney fees for Corcoran, and that her removal of K.C. to Virginia was a relocation contravening the denial of her petition to relocate.

Finally, the panel upheld the order for Boonstra to pay child support, finding “(t)he trial court’s child support determination is not clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it.”

The case is In Re: The Paternity of K.C.; Kayley Boonstra v. Daniel Corcoran, 20A-JP-1592.

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