As their personal and professional lives become increasingly mobile, relocation is a common theme for Colorado parents raising their children in separate households. When the residential parent seeks to move, whether, within the state or elsewhere, the situation can trigger extremely bitter disputes. The court stated it best in the Ciesluk case, a key Colorado decision on the topic of relocation: “Child parenting disputes present agonizing decisions for trial court judges.”
None more so than when one parent wants to relocate with the minor child against the wishes of the other parent. Unlike other custody disputes, relocations present practical limitations that can drastically reduce one parent’s time with the children, even if he or she is an involved, loving, and fit parent. No matter what your position in such a dispute, you may not know where to begin with enforcing your rights as a parent.
Fortunately, you can trust our family law attorneys at Pomper Price, LLC to advise you on the relevant laws and represent you in court proceedings. We have extensive experience representing parents on both sides of the matter, so we can assist you in seeking relocation or fighting the custodial parent’s efforts to move. Please contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our child relocation lawyers today. You may also benefit from reviewing an overview of the relevant legal concepts.
How Relocation Works Under Colorado Law
A court order regarding custody and visitation is binding on both parents, but may not be possible for one to exercise his or her rights when the other wants to move. Therefore, the residential parent wanting to relocate must get court permission to do so. Plus, the judge must enter an updated custody and visitation order based upon the child’s new home. Note that the legal relocation process is only necessary for moves that will “substantially” change the geographic distance between the child and the other parent.
There are two types of relocation cases:
1. During or Upon Divorce: For relocations that occur during or at the time of divorce or initial custody determination (APR), a judge is required to accept where each parent lives. The court is essentially assuming that the parent who wants to move already did. Then, the court makes parenting time decisions according to the best interests of the child.
2. Post-Divorce Relocation: The more common scenario involves relocations that occur after the divorce or initial custody determination is final. In such a case, there could be considerable changes to the current order on custody and visitation because of geographic disparities. One person may encounter substantial challenges in exercising parenting rights, and there are implications for the child’s relationship with that parent.
As you can see from these descriptions, there are different legal considerations for each of these scenarios that must be assessed by the court when making the final determination. Given the high stakes of a relocation request, it is imperative that your attorney is well versed in the applicable legal standards and the respective factors that must be considered in a relocation.
Relocation and the Best Interests of the Child
Colorado courts are required to make determinations on custody according to the child’s best interests. This standard also applies when the residential parent seeks to move with the child. Factors generally relate to the child’s relationship with each parent, the parents’ abilities to put the child’s needs first, the past pattern of involvement with the child, and many others.
In addition, when reviewing a parent’s request to relocate, a judge will consider:
- The reasons for relocation, such as a job or family
- Why the other parent objects to the move
- The impact of relocating on the child
- Educational opportunities at the new and current residence
- The presence of extended family before and after proposed relocation
- The quality of the parent-child relationship
- Whether it is possible to create a workable parenting schedule after one parent moves
The Legal Relocation Process
Our experienced lawyers at Pomper Price, LLC will handle all essential tasks, but you should be aware of how the proceedings work. To obtain court permission, the custodial parent must first provide the other with notice regarding the intention to relocate. They must also disclose the proposed location, the reasons for moving, and a proposed parenting plan to account for the new living arrangement. If the other parent does not consent, relocation will be decided by the judge at a contested hearing. The process moves as follows:
- The relocating party must officially request permission by filing a motion in court, along with all supporting documentation and other proof that there are legitimate reasons for the move.
- As the respondent, the non-moving parent will have the opportunity to object to the motion to relocate.
- The parties attend a contested hearing, which is similar to a trial. Each side will be able to present arguments, testimony, additional witnesses, and other evidence.
- The court will decide the relocation issue after applying the facts to the child’s best interests standard AND additional factors designated above.
Strategies for Addressing Relocation Disputes
Unless both parents agree to the move, a contested hearing is the most likely route for addressing relocation. These cases often do not settle in mediation since there is not really a middle ground when one parent wants to move with the children and the other parent objects. Therefore, the most effective strategy for success at a child relocation hearing is focusing on the relevant factors and aligning them with the facts. Keep in mind some practical considerations for attaining this objective:
- You are in a better position to block relocation if you are an engaged parent with a large percentage of parenting time.
- A parent moving for a job has a better legal footing than someone relocating for voluntary reasons.
- This child’s wishes may be a consideration for the judge, but age and maturity matter.
Our Team is Ready to Serve Your Needs
At Pomper Price, LLC, our family law attorneys represent parents on both sides of the relocation issue. We can help prepare important notices and help obtain consent whenever possible. However, our lawyers will also represent you in court for a contested hearing, including:
- Preparing the petition for relocation
- Responding to a petition filed by your child’s other parent
- Gathering and organizing key evidence to support your position on the relocation question
- Developing a trial strategy to promote or defend relocation
- Representing you at trial, where we will make solid arguments in your favor, present and cross-examine witnesses, introduce evidence and exhibits, and aggressively fight to ensure the judge finds in your favor
Trust Our Colorado Relocation Attorneys to Assist with Legal Tasks
If you are facing child relocation questions, it is critical to retain experienced legal counsel who can explain your rights, help you understand your options, and represent you in court. The Colorado relocation attorneys at Pomper Price, LLC have decades worth of experience defending and pursuing relocation cases, so we can assist with all aspects of the proceedings.
For additional information, please call 720-780-8288 or contact us here to schedule an initial consultation to discuss the details of your relocation case. We can meet with you at our main office in Denver, or at any of our satellite offices that serve clients from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. Plus, we are also set up to work out a virtual consultation to suit your needs.