Understanding Child Custody Relocation Cases In Colorado

A parent in a Colorado child custody case must understand the law when relocating their home.  A new job, a new school, or a new partner might require moving to a different city or state but that gets tricky when shared child custody is involved. Under Colorado rules, the timing of the relocation is a major factor in how the court views the case. Here’s an overview.

Colorado Child Custody Relocation During The Initial Determination

If a Colorado parent decides to relocate during the initial determination of divorce, paternity, or custody, they are free to do so without getting disadvantaged in the custody case. In fact, the judge is required to accept the parent’s new address and use it in the decision-making. The court essentially ‘pretends’ that the parent has already moved to the new address. This is based on the Colorado precedent case of Spahmer v. Gulette, 113 P.3d 158 (Colo. 2005).

However, the relocation can still nudge the court’s decision in a subtle way. While the address change is not a factor by itself in the judge’s decision, there are considerations related to the new home’s locations, such as:

  • the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • the physical proximity of parents to each other, especially with regard to the practical parenting time considerations
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to share contact between the child and the other parent.

Because of this, even though both parents are on equal footing in this child custody relocation scenario, some judges may decide that the children can only stay with the non-moving parent. The relocating parent would then have vacation parenting time only.

If you are a parent who intends to relocate upon filing for divorce or child custody, you should have an attorney to make sure you get a fair judgment despite your new address.

Colorado Child Custody Relocation After Decree

By contrast, if a parent decides to move only after a parenting plan has been ordered, a post-decree modification is most likely necessary. This is because the relocation will affect the parenting plan that has already been set. The precedent case for this scenario is Marriage of Ciesluk, 113 P.3d 135 (Colo. 2005).

The relocating parent must request the other parent’s consent to move. If the other parent does not consent – which is often the case – the matter can go to court for a modification of parenting time.

During the decree modification hearing, the court reconsiders all the traditional factors in determining the child’s best interests, plus these additional factors associated with relocation.

  • The parent’s reasons for wanting to relocate with the child
  • The other parent’s reasons for opposing the relocation
  • The quality and history of each parent’s relationship with the child
  • The child’s educational opportunities at the current and proposed new location
  • The extended family’s presence (or absence) at the current and proposed new location
  • Any advantage the child may enjoy by remaining with the primary caregiver
  • The potential impact of the relocation on the child
  • Whether the court can create a reasonable parenting time schedule should the requested change be granted
  • Other relevant factors regarding the child’s best interests
  • Whether either parent has been a perpetrator of domestic violence.

The court’s determination is more stringent in modifying a decree, so it is all the more crucial for a parent to hire a child custody lawyer if their move is post-decree.

Goldman Law is highly experienced in child custody relocation cases, whether as part of the initial determination or after the decree is set. If you have questions or concerns regarding your custody situation in Colorado, please call us at (303) 656-9529 to schedule a consultation.