Relocating with children: the law in Colorado

Child custody is a contentious topic that arises in many Colorado divorce cases, and the possibility of one parent relocating with children is one aspect that is particularly contentious. While the law previously allowed parents to move at will, even when the other parent was opposed to the move, a relatively recent update now places greater emphasis on the best interests of the children rather than the preferences of the parents.

What does this mean in practice?

While a divorce is pending, neither parent can remove their children from the state of Colorado without the express permission of the other parent or the court. This is to prevent parental abductions, which would unduly harm the children’s welfare and their relationship with the other parent, extend and increase the cost of divorce proceedings, and have a significant impact on any future parenting schedule determinations.

During initial custody determinations, parents who wish to relocate with their children will need to prove that it is in their child’s best interests to do so. The court will consider their evidence and arrive at a determination that allocates parenting time fairly and in a manner that enables the children to derive maximum benefit.

If one parent wishes to relocate after the divorce is complete, they will need to amend their agreed parenting schedule to account for the relocation. If their move is opposed by the other parent and the case returns to court, the court will consider a number of factors, including the reason for the relocation, the reasons the other parent has raised an objection, how successfully the parents have co-parented since the divorce, whether relocation offers a better quality of life or support system for the children, the impact that moving would have on the children, and whether it is possible to arrive at a suitable parenting schedule if the move goes ahead.1

Typically, when one parent is only awarded care of their children on the weekends or every other weekend, the court will be more lenient in allowing the primary parent to relocate with their children, as it is usually judged that doing so will not violate the agreed-upon parenting plan or harm the children’s relationship with their other parent.

Procedure for relocating with children

If a parent wishes to relocate and take their children with them, they must write to the other parent and express their intent, detailing where they intend to live, why they wish to move, and how they propose to continue co-parenting with the other parent after they relocate2.

If the other parent objects, they may file a motion to relocate and seek a court hearing. The court will consider the reasons for the move and whether the parent wishing to relocate will benefit from increased family support. If the children are old enough, they will be allowed to express their preferences. Ideally, parents should work together to reach a suitable solution without the need for court, especially if they want to remain on amicable terms and present a united front for their children.

Risks of relocation

Although people often relocate to live closer to their familial support network or because their job demands it, there is a risk that doing so could impact child custody arrangements should the court rule that it is in the best interests of the children for them to remain with the parent who is not relocating.

If the parent wishing to move has primary caregiving responsibilities, and their move would not substantially impact the parenting time of the other parent, the courts are likely to look more favorably upon their request to relocate.

It is important to note that although relocations out of state are the focus of this article, relocations to another suburb within the same state should still be addressed by both parents prior to a move being conducted, particularly if the other parent has mid-week overnight responsibility for their children and the primary parent’s move will impact their ability to parent effectively or ensure that their children attend school refreshed and settled.

Advice for parents who wish to relocate

People do not normally relocate on a whim. There is usually a good reason relocation is a consideration, and as long as both parents are on amicable terms, they should be encouraged to discuss the potential relocation and arrive at a mutually agreeable solution without the need for court involvement.

If the parents cannot reach an acceptable position, they should consider mediation to help them explore their desires and objections in a safe and impartial environment. A trained mediator can help them remain focused on the best interests of the children and guide the discussions to a successful conclusion.

If mediation fails to achieve an acceptable outcome and court is the only way to arrive at a determination, the team at Lewis & Matthews, P.C. will be by your side, advising and advocating for you. To discuss your case, contact us today.

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