In re the Paternity of W.R.H. Casie N. Wheeler, Appellant-Petitioner,
William Jesse Hinshaw, Appellee-Respondent
from the Hamilton Superior Court The Honorable Jonathan M.
Brown, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 29D02-1506-JP-839
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Trenna S. Parker Trenna S. Parker Law
Office, P.C. Noblesville, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Rodney T. Sarkovics Sarkovics Law
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
Casie N. Wheeler ("Mother") and William Jesse
Hinshaw ("Father") shared joint legal custody of
their young son (i.e., authority and responsibility for the
major decisions concerning their son's upbringing,
including his education, health care, and religious
training). However, after Mother filed a notice of intent to
relocate and Father objected, the trial court issued an order
that, among other things, awarded sole legal custody to
Father. Mother appeals, arguing that the parties did not
raise the issue of legal custody and that the modification
was therefore improper. Father acknowledges that he did not
expressly request a change in legal custody but contends
that, under Indiana's parental-relocation statutes, Ind.
Code ch. 31-17-2.2, legal custody is placed at issue any time
one parent files a notice of intent to relocate and the other
parent objects. We disagree with Father's reading of the
statutes, and because he did not otherwise put Mother on
notice that he was seeking a change in legal custody, we
reverse the modification.
and Procedural History
Mother and Father are the parents of W.H., who was born in
March 2014. As of July 2017, Mother had primary physical
custody of W.H., with Father exercising significant parenting
time and paying child support, and the parties shared joint
legal custody. Mother was living in Indianapolis, and Father
was living in Westfield. That month, Mother filed a notice of
intent to relocate to New Haven, Indiana, "for a
teaching position with a Fort Wayne ballet company and to
pursue her undergraduate degree at Indiana University -
Purdue University Fort Wayne." Appellant's App. Vol.
II p. 40. She acknowledged that the move would "cause a
change in the current parenting time as the increased
distance will affect Father's currently ordered parenting
time." Id. at 40-41.
Father immediately objected to the proposed relocation,
asserting that it would "substantially interfere with
his parenting time he is currently exercising."
Id. at 43. He asked the trial court to set the
matter for a hearing, to prohibit Mother from relocating
while the matter was pending, and to ultimately bar the
relocation. Father also asked the court to modify child
support and to award him "physical custody"
"[s]hould Mother decide to move to Ft. Wayne[.]"
Id. at 44.
The trial court set the matter for a hearing. A few days
before the hearing, Father filed a motion for rule to show
cause. He alleged that Mother, without talking to him, had
enrolled W.H. in a school in New Haven. Father asserted that
this was a breach of the joint-legal-custody arrangement and
asked the court to hold her in contempt.
At the hearing, the parties disputed whether W.H. had
actually been "enrolled" in the school in New
Haven. They also presented extensive testimony and exhibits
regarding the proposed relocation. Father's primary
contention was that Mother's reason for wanting to move
to New Haven was not school or work but rather to live with
In January 2018, the trial court issued its order. Believing
that Mother would be relocating to New Haven regardless of
the court's decision, the court (1) denied Mother's
request to relocate W.H., (2) awarded primary physical
custody to Father, (3) awarded sole legal custody to Father,
(4) modified child support, and (5) found Mother in contempt
of the previous legal-custody order and ordered her to pay
some of Father's attorney's fees.
Mother then filed a motion to correct error. She did not
challenge the denial of her request to relocate W.H. to New
Haven, but she argued that the rest of the rulings were
incorrect. Relevant to this appeal, Mother asserted that the
parties did not ask the trial court to modify legal custody
and that the court therefore erred by doing so. The trial
court granted Mother's motion in part, including setting
aside the finding of contempt, but it left in place the
modification of legal custody. The court concluded that
"a change of custody was requested and plead by both
parties." Appellant's App. Vol. III p. 30.