What Happens When Divorced Parents Need to Relocate?

Families relocate all the time, but when parents are divorced and children split time between their parents’ homes, relocation can be a hotly contested issue. Though a parent might try to remain in the area to be close to his or her children, life can bring unexpected changes. If a career or military obligation, or personal matter requires a parent to move, it can affect custody and visitation. If you are facing relocation or your spouse needs to move and the two of you are parents, there are several things you need to know.

Temporary Custody in Divorce or Legal Separation

If your divorce or legal separation is pending, you are prohibited by Colorado law from removing your child from the state, even on a temporary basis, unless you have permission from your child’s other parent or from the court. After your divorce is finalized, you can take your child out of the state, as long as it is permitted in the divorce decree. Unfortunately, this only addresses visits and not full-time living arrangements. If your child must travel a great distance to reach your new home, visiting can become extremely expensive and inconvenient.

Your child moving away from his or her hometown and proximity to you is devastating to even imagine. Understanding the laws related to your relocation or your spouse’s can make the entire process easier and help you protect your rights as a parent.

What are the Colorado Requirements for Relocation?

According to C.R.S. § 14-10-129(1)(a)(II), when the majority residential parent, or a parent with 50-50 parenting time seeks to relocate with a child to a location which substantially changes the geographical ties between that child and the other parent, the parent seeking relocation must provide:

• Written notice of the intent to relocate
• The location where the party intends to reside
• The reason for the relocation
• A proposed revised parenting plan

A removal hearing will be scheduled to address the relocation and custody. These hearings are given priority in family court and the judge will decide whether the proposed relocation will be in the child’s best interest.

There are certain factors that the court will consider in determining a relocation case, including:

• Reason(s) the party wishes to relocate with the child
• Reason(s) the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation
• History and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order
• Educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location
• Presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location
• Advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver
• Anticipated impact of the move on the child
• If reasonable parenting time can be scheduled if the change requested is permitted
• Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child

It is also important to note the court takes other factors into account, including whether a party has committed an act of domestic violence, has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence, or has a history of domestic violence, as that term is defined in C.R.S. § 14-10-124 (1.3).

Keep in mind that the court is not allowed to require either parent live in a specific location following a divorce. However, the court must make an appropriate custody determination based on where each parent will live once the marriage is over. If you or your spouse wishes to move immediately following your divorce or legal separation, it will be treated as part of the initial custody determination.

For instance, if a parent plans to move immediately following divorce, but has not yet moved, the move is considered as part of the initial divorce and custody arrangement and no follow-up hearing will be needed at the actual time of relocation. This means that the only standard considered by the court is what will be in the best interests of the child. In this case, the procedure and criteria outlined by C.R.S. § 14-10-129 do not apply, and instead, the court only considers the “best interests of the children” standard under C.R.S. § 14-10-124.

If you are in the midst of a divorce and you or your spouse intends to move out of state, or you have received notice that you or your spouse must relocate because of a job or other obligation and it will affect your existing custody arrangement, we can provide the information and support you need. To schedule a consultation to discuss protecting your parental rights in a divorce or custody hearing, contact Montgomery Little & Soran, PC at 303-773-8100.