Picking up stakes and moving residences has been part of the American story since those Pilgrim families jumped off the Mayflower and moved to Massachusetts. Individuals and families remain mobile to this day, moving for a wide variety of reasons – job opportunities, to be close to relatives, or to be done with cold and snow. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.5 percent of the U.S. population – or 35.7 million Americans - moved between 2013 and 2014 alone.
For intact families, such moves can be difficult and exciting, with understandable grumbling by kids who have to leave their friends, school, and the only life they knew. But for divorced parents sharing parenting time with their kids, it can be even more challenging and lead to conflict. When one parent wants to move a significant distance away from the other parent, it will necessarily impact parenting time arrangements established in a divorce decree. Colorado law attempts to balance the right of individuals to move where they wish with the rights of parents not to be deprived of time with their kids, all the while keeping the focus on the child’s best interests.
When a parent with whom the child resides a majority of the time seeks to relocate with the child to a residence that “substantially changes the geographical ties between the child and the other party,” Colorado law (C.R.S. § 14-10-129) requires that parent to provide the other parent with:
- Written notice of the intent to relocate
- The location which they intend to move to
- The reason for the proposed relocation, and
- A proposed revised parenting plan
It is important to understand that this notice requirement and court approval if necessary doesn’t just apply to relocation to another state. Even a move from Colorado Springs to Pueblo or Denver can trigger this requirement.
If the other parent objects to the proposed relocation, the parent seeking to move must obtain approval from the court before they can pick up and move.
A judge will consider numerous factors when evaluating a request to relocate, including:
- The reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;
- The reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;
- The history and quality of each party's relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;
- The educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- Any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;
- The anticipated impact of the move on the child;
- Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and
- Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.
Relocation During Divorce Proceedings
During divorce proceedings, neither parent can take their child out of Colorado, even briefly, without the agreement of the other parent or approval from the judge.
If a parent wants to relocate to another area as part of the initial child custody evaluation, a Colorado court won’t stop them from doing so. But the judge will take the proposed move into consideration as it makes its parenting time and parental responsibility determination if the parties can’t reach an agreement themselves. As with any decision involving children, the judge will keep the focus on what is in the best interests of the child when making his or her decision as to parenting time.
If you are a divorced Colorado parent seeking to move with your child or your former spouse is intending to relocate with your child, you should contact an experienced Colorado child custody attorney to fully understand your rights and your options.