Lane v. Schenck

Lane v. Schenck, 158 Vt. 489, 614 A.2d 786 (1992) involved a judgment granting sole physical and legal parental rights and responsibilities to one parent, and neither party in that case disputed the fact that the mother had continued to be the sole custodian following the divorce. The Court noted that when a noncustodial parent seeks a change in custody based solely on the custodial parent's decision to relocate, the moving party faces a high hurdle in justifying the "violent dislocation" of a change in custody from one parent to the other. See id. at 499, 614 A.2d at 792 The Court also observed "the place of residence for a family is central to childrearing, and thus that decision is understandably entrusted to the parent awarded parental rights and responsibilities." Id. at 495, 614 A.2d at 789. In that case, the Court established certain principles with respect to relocation cases. In Lane, a mother with sole custody who decided to move to Iowa for law school was ordered by the court not to move more than four hours drive away from the noncustodial parent. See Lane, 158 Vt. at 491, 614 A.2d at 787. The Court reversed, finding that although the court had been correct in finding a real, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances, courts must grant "some level of deference" to a custodial parent's decision to relocate. See id. at 495, 614 A.2d at 789. Therefore, the Court held that where a custodial parent wants to relocate and the noncustodial parent shows changed circumstances, the noncustodial parent must further show that the move would so undermine the best interests of the children that a transfer of custody is necessary. See id. at 499, 614 A.2d at 792. In Lane, the Court reversed the court's prohibition on the mother's move and remanded for the court to find whether the move so undermined the best interests of the children that a transfer of custody was needed. See id.