The relationship a parent has with their child is priceless. Although time spent texting or on FaceTime ensures communication, there is no substitute for close contact parents have when sharing a home or living near a child.
One of the most contentious issues in a divorce is where one parent requests to "relocate" the child. In the end, one parent will be the primary and school parent and the other will be the vacation parent. Many parents involved in a custody battle struggle with the question of whether they should relocate out of the state of Colorado.
If you are thinking about relocating with your child, it is important to understand Colorado's relocation laws. Depending upon the current custody arrangement and the distance you plan to relocate, there could be some complications when it comes to legally and lawfully moving with your child.
Determining Factors in Colorado Child Relocation
During the Pendency of the Divorce or Custody Action: While a Colorado divorce or legal separation is pending, the law prevents one parent from removing the child from the state, even temporarily, without either permission from the other parent or a court order. Once the divorce is final, parents can take the child out of state for visits, unless the decree says otherwise. A permanent relocation still requires permission, and that permission is increasingly hard to get.
Upon Initial Entry of Divorce Decree or Custody Order: If you know you will be relocating at the beginning of your divorce and this is an initial custody determination, the court will structure a parenting plan under the presumption that you already live in this new location. The court must accept the place that each parent intends to live and look at what is in the child's best interest as to where the child should live. CRS 14-10-124(1.5)(a) gives the court 11 factors the court has to consider in determining the child's best interest.
Post-Divorce Decree or Post-Custody Order: In situations where the custody agreement does not intend for a child to move far away, in or out of state, the parent seeking relocation after a divorce is final must obtain a court's review and approval if the distance would significantly change the geographical ties between the child and their other parent. The parent wanting to make this substantial relocation will need to file a motion to modify parenting time.
In cases where one parent with whom a child resides a majority of the time requests to relocate a child somewhere that substantially changes the geographical ties between the child and the other parent, the court has to evaluate the 11 factors referenced above in CRS 14-10-124(1.5)(a), plus the nine factors stated in CRS 14-10-129(2)(c). This becomes a more difficult hurdle for the parent who desires to relocate.
What Parents Must Do When Seeking Relocation Post-Decree
If you are seeking relocation, you must first notify the other parent in writing. The notice should provide detailed information of where you are planning to move, why you are moving, and any proposed changes to your parenting plan.
You must then file a motion with the court, which will lead to a hearing (if the parties cannot agree) to determine if the move is in the best interest of the child while also protecting the rights of both parents. If the court finds that the factors weigh in favor of the relocation, it will grant it unless it would impair the health and emotional development of the child.
During this relocation hearing, the court will need to determine whether a modification of parenting time is in the child's best interests by examining several factors, including, but not limited to:
- The reasons offered by the relocating parent for the move
- The reasons why the other parent objects to the proposed move
- The existing relationships between the child and each parent
- The available education opportunities for the child in the current location and at the proposed location
- The presence or absence of extended family members at either location
- The possible impact that the relocation will have on the child
- The advantages to the child if he or she remains with the primary custodial parent
- The likelihood that the court will be able to create a reasonable parenting schedule should it permit the relocation
- Any history of domestic violence by either parent
It is important to keep in mind, however, that the information above barely scratches the surface of what you need to know should you ever find yourself involved in a child relocation dispute in Colorado. This is why you should always seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible.