If you have an existing child custody case in Colorado, are the primary residential custodian, and are considering relocating out of state with the minor child or children, you will need to seek permission from the court or written consent from the other parent. Even a move from one city to another (for example, Fort Collins to Colorado Springs) could be considered a relocation as it can substantially change the geographical ties between the minor child and the other parent. C.R.S. 14-10-129 governs modifications of parenting time. Depending upon the nature of your current parenting time 0rder, there may be different ways to approach the relocation.
When dealing with a motion for relocation, there are several factors that the court will consider in addition to the best interests of the child (C.R.S. 14-10-124). Those standards are set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-129 and can include:
- The reasons for the desired relocation
- The reasons (if any) against the relocation
- The history and quality of each party’s relationship with the minor child
- The educational opportunities compared to those in the current location
- The existence of extended family members compared in each location
- The advantages to remaining with the primary caregiver
- The anticipated impact the relocation will have on the minor child
- Whether the court can prepare a new parenting time plan to accommodate the relocation and maintain a relationship with the non-moving parent
- Any other factors deemed relevant as relates to the best interests of the child
If you are the majority time parent and you are the one wishing to relocate with the child, the first step is to communicate your intentions to the other side, in writing. I suggest that you draft a letter detailing the proposed relocation, all relevant information regarding where you will be moving, schools, doctors, activities, nearby family, etc., and a proposed parenting time schedule to maintain the child’s temporal relationship with the non-moving party. When you file for a motion for relocation, it can’t be on a whim or without a strong basis regarding why you are relocating and the factors set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-129. Something like, “Oh, I want to move to New York and I’ll find a job” is most likely not going to rise to the level needed for the court to authorize the minor child to move with you. You need to have done your homework. Research schools in the area, call the principals to ensure availability, look up programs you will enroll the child in, detail the confirmed job opportunity and how that will benefit the child, etc. If the other parent consents to the relocation, you should reduce the agreement to writing in the form of a Stipulation and file it with the Court.
If you are the non-moving parent who wishes to oppose the minor child relocating, you need to make sure that you communicate your objection in writing to the other party. This does not mean you blow up the other’s parent’s phones with inappropriate communications or texts. You will have your opportunity to respond, through the court process, when the other parent files a Motion for Relocation. You may argue that the job opportunity is not any better than the current one, that the minor child is already integrated into their present school and community and social circles, a lack of family or support network, or whatever other concerns you have related to the relocation. You should also note that when the majority parent wishes to relocate you can make your own request for modifying parenting time such that you become the primary parent, under the best interest standard, as opposed to the endangerment standard.
In my opinion, Colorado courts don’t generally favor relocation, meaning they will scrutinize most relocation requests, in light of prevailing theories that maximizing time with both parents take precedence. Of primary concern is the impact the move will have on the child and the relationship with the non-moving parent. William G. Austin, Ph.D. wrote that “The resolution or conclusion that can be drawn is that while relocation creates a significant risk of harm, it is not at all inevitable that relocating children will indeed suffer harm. Resilient children, resourceful moving parents, and a suitable long-distance parenting plan that facilitates access is a recipe for sound risk management and a successful relocation.” Courts are never going to view a relocation request as being ideal or optimal. At the same time, they do occur.
Pursuant to statute, a relocation request is supposed to receive priority on the court’s docket. Some courts will adhere to this, so you should be prepared fairly quickly to have your case heard. In other courts, you may be looking at several months before a hearing, depending on the circumstances, need for experts, etc.