Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Indiana Case: Swadner v. Swadner Part III (Relocation)

I dealt with the child's names and contempt issues of Swadner v. Swadner (PDF format) in Swadner v. Swadner Part I (Children's Names) and joint custody in Swadner v. Swadner Part II (Joint Custody). I come now to what is for me the more troublesome part of the case.

I have written a bit on relocation cases. You can find the archives for these case here. Swadner recites the law at page 13 - 14 of the opinion. My view has been that Baxendale made relocation cases harder as the child gets older. Swadner demonstrates how the relocation statute might apply to infants. Pay attention to the facts and reasoning that follow:

Mother established that the proposed relocation was made in good faith and for a legitimate reason. Mother desired to move from Plainfield to Fort Wayne because she planned to reside with her parents. Her parents were willing to watch the children while she worked. She also had an offer for employment. Although her pay would have been less than her rate of pay at her current job, Mother would have had minimal living and child care expenses. Mother intended to reside with her parents until she had paid off all of her debts.

However, Father presented evidence that it would not be in the children‟s best interests to allow Mother to relocate the children to Fort Wayne. The GAL testified that in her opinion, Mother should not be allowed to relocate the children. The GAL stated that Mother‟s “refusal to allow [Father] any overnight parenting time with [E.S.S.] as well as her alleged failure to allow [Father] telephone access to [E.G.S.] is a good predictor of what he can expect in the future as far as [Mother‟s] willingness to foster and encourage [Father‟s] role in the kids [sic] lives.” Tr. p. 17. She also testified that Mother‟s conduct “has been to thwart” Father‟s parenting time with E.S.S. Tr. p. 18.
I object to the relocation statue because it gives the non-relocating parent a chance to beat up on the other parent more than it protects the non-relocating parent's relationship with their child. On the facts presented by the Court of Appeals, I have to say that I cannot object to this decision. Mother's actions regarding parenting time were just wrong if she wanted to win a relocation case.

Both sides of a relocation case need to think hard about how their treatment of one another and the child fit into Swadner. The facts have also brought to mind parental alienation syndrome. We might have a tool to deal with that problem in our relocation statute (which is what it should be used for). You can find my articles on parental alienation syndrome by putting that term into the search box at the top of the page.

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