The Rocky Mountain Family Lawyers are Denver’s award-winning family law trial advocates. We’re experts in domestic and international child relocation and have successfully litigated child relocation cases involving children in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Call us today to talk personally with a lawyer about with your child relocation issues. (303) 502-9600.
By definition, a child “relocation” case is one in which one of the parents seeks to move the child to a new location that substantially changes the geographic relationship with the other parent. The new location might be another state or even another country. For obvious reasons, Child relocation cases are the most highly-contested in all of family law and are often perceived as a “winner-takes-all” proposition. Looking beyond the sheer drama, there are a number of complicated legal issues inherent in all relocation cases.
Relocation as Part of the Initial Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities
If a party seeks to relocate a child as part of the initial custody order, the well-known “best interests of the child” standard applies. The nine factors of the test are listed below. Each of the factors must be considered but the importance of any one of them will depend on the specific facts of the case:
(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;
(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time; and
(IX) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
Critically, the reason(s) for the parent’s relocation is(are) legally irrelevant. Also, under a much-maligned decision, Spahmer v. Gullette, the court must take as a given the new residence of the relocating parent, even if he or she has not in fact moved.
The court is forced to The two legal components that govern post-decree relocation cases are statutory and judge-made (case law). The legislature has provided the courts with several mandatory factors to analyze. In addition, the Colorado Supreme Court has imposed additional considerations.
Colorado Revised Statute, §14-10-129(2) defines the rules for post-decree relocations. The statute strongly favors the party with whom the child resides a majority of the time A parent who enjoys one-half of all parenting time is generally treated as a majority parent.
A parent seeking to relocate must take the following steps:
- Provide written notice of his or her intent to relocate as soon as practicable
- Include the reason for the relocation and the proposed new location
- Provide the other parent with a proposed new parenting plan that covers the relocation
Relocation cases are given priority on the court’s docket due to the fact relocations are time sensitive by their nature.
The court will consider 11 key areas in its deliberations:
- The best interests of the child (§14-10-124, C.R.S);
- The reason for the relocation;
- The reasons for the objection to the proposed relocation;
- The historical relationship of each party with the child before the relocation request was made;
- Whether any party has been a perpetrator of domestic violence;
- The educational opportunities for the child in each location;
- The level of access the child will receive to extended family at each location;
- The advantage the child will have in remaining with the primary caregiver – a factor of increased importance with younger children;
- The likely impact of the move on the child;
- The likelihood of establishing a reasonable parenting time schedule if the relocation takes place; and
- Any other relevant factors.
Relocation of Children After a Divorce Decree or Initial Child Custody Order in Colorado:
Relocating a child after the divorce decree or initial child custody order has already been issued is often more difficult than relocating the child as part of the initial custody order because a higher legal standard applies.
When the initial child custody order issues, the parents are granted certain rights regarding parenting time and decision-making. These rights naturally help establish expectations about the amount of contact each party will have with his or her child and whether the parent will be involved in major decisions concerning the child, such as school choice and health decisions. A post-decree relocation will always upset those expectations and may leave the left-behind parent feeling victimized.
These cases are among the most bitterly-contested of all family law cases in Colorado. It’s important to hire an attorney to take the emotions out of case and give you clear advice about your rights.
The Rocky Mountain Family Lawyers are Colorado child relocation experts.
Call us now to discuss your legal options and rights concerning child relocation. (303) 502-9600.