Moving is a predicament many people with children face. For various reasons, a divorced or unmarried Colorado parent may find they need to move out-of-state. Or they may wish to relocate somewhere significantly further from the other parent than that agreed to in their initial parenting plan.
Once child custody has been decided, innumerable circumstances can take place that require one parent to move. A divorced parent, for example, may wish to pursue a job offer, return to school, get married again, be closer to family, or simply to move on and begin a new life. Many people wonder, however, whether moving is allowed if the other parent contests the relocation.
In September 2001, Colorado statutes established a new standard and procedure for reviewing cases where a parent wants to move to a new residence, one that significantly increases the mileage between child and the other parent.
This law replaced an older Supreme Court decision which gave in most cases a custodial parent the conditional right to move with his or her children provided that certain factors were met. The big exception was for child endangerment cases, provided the non-custodial parent could prove that it existed. Today, things are different.
For the majority residential parent or a co-equal parent that shares 50/50 parenting time seeking to relocate with their child, Colorado child custody and visitation relocation law makes them responsible to first provide written notice to the child’s other parent. This notice must contain the parent’s intent to move, the location of their planned new home, reasons for their requested relocation, and a proposed and revised new parenting time schedule and plan.
Relocation when Child Custody is Initially Determined
In regard to parental responsibilities in an initial custody case, no advantage is given to either adult as both parents are on an equal footing in the eyes of the law. The chief goal of divorce proceedings is to identify the best interests of the child after considering 11 statutory factors, and to create a stable situation between the parties. Courts in these instances have no authority to order a parent to reside in Colorado.
Matters to be reviewed are the wishes of the child’s parents when it comes to parenting time, the interrelationship and interaction of the child with their parents and other persons who may impact the child’s best interests significantly, the physical and emotional health of all involved individuals, and the ability of each parent to place the child’s needs ahead of his or her own.
Relocation After the Initial Determination of Child Custody
In succeeding child custody assessments, the court must determine the best interests of the child and balance it with the rights of one parent to move and the right of the other parent to maintain a close relation with his or her child. In either case, there is no special burden of proof on either parent.
The court may consider other reasons associated with relocation. Those might include the parent’s desire to relocate with the child or why the non-custodial parent objects. Other things to consider may be the schooling choices available for the child in the present location compared to the new location. The existence of family in the new location is another factor, as well as the history and quality of each parent’s relation with the child. Still further, a court may reflect on whether quality parenting time-visitation may be afforded by the parents if the relocation is approved, and the anticipated impact of that the move may have on the child.
It must be noted that parents may have an easier time moving to another state with their children at the initial determination stage of the divorce rather than later as a modification of the original court orders. More stringent standards for relocation apply later on, as both the children and parents will already be accustomed to a particular parenting time schedule. The court also considers fewer factors at the initial determination stage, and so it may be to a parent’s advantage to raise the issue at this point of the divorce.
Child relocation is a situation that may be complex and even contentious. Since every situation is unique, the course of action to be taken to arrive at a successful resolution may also vary. Even if you are just thinking about moving with your child, it would be in your and your child’s best interests to learn the legal requirements of moving following a divorce.