Written by: Steven Lane, Family Law Commitee Chair
Within the last several months, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal reviewed a custody relocation case from Jefferson Parish and ruled that the Louisiana Relocation Statute did not apply in a custody case because the Trial Court measured the distance between the objecting party’s residence and the proposed residence of the relocating party by calculating the 75-mile relocation limit in surface or roadway miles rather than radial miles, i.e. “as the crow flies.”
The case at issue is Holley v. Holley, 17-325 (La. App. 5 Cir. 11/20/17), 232 So. 3d 717. In this case, the father filed an objection to a mother’s relocation of the minor child. The mother had moved from her home on Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans to Baton Rouge. At the time, Mr. Holley resided in Jefferson Parish.
Ms. Holley did not give any notice of relocation pursuant to the relocation statute (La. Stat. Ann. § 9:355.1 et seq.). Once Mr. Holley found out about the relocation, he filed an objection to relocation and requested a hearing ordering the mother back to Orleans Parish.
The Trial Court ordered the mother to return from Baton Rouge, and the mother immediately filed a writ to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal reviewed the relocation issue de novo and reviewed legislative history of other states which had resulted in the Louisiana Relocation Statute.
The legal question, as presented by the Court, was whether “miles” as provided in the Relocation Statute should be defined and calculated in straight line or radial miles, i.e., as the crow files, or in surface or roadway miles using the most commonly traveled or shortest route available.
Ms. Holley said the Court should use a straight line or radial mile method of determination while Mr. Holley asserted that the most commonly traveled route in highway miles should be applied.
The Trial Judge rejected Ms. Holley’s argument and opined that “we are not crows,” and applied the commonly used highway or roadway method of measurement as determined by Mapquest.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the Trial Judge and stated that the “as the crow flies” method of measurement is the most uniform method to measure distances, and that this was the method that should apply in Louisiana child relocation cases. Once the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal applied a straight line measurement method to the facts of the case, it resulted in a finding that the distance between Mr. Holley’s residence in River Ridge and the address for the proposed relocation in Baton Rouge was less than 75 radial or straight line miles. As such, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal determined that the Relocation Statute did not apply, and the Trial Court’s judgment sustaining Mr. Holley’s procedural objection to relocation was overturned.
You need to be aware of this holding when you have a relocation case, especially if there is a close call as to whether the relocation is more or less than 75 miles from where the relocating party had previously lived with the minor child.
Steven J. Lane
Chairman, Family Law Committee
New Orleans Bar Association