If either you or your former partner is considering moving out of state with your children, there are many complex legal issues to be addressed. Likewise, you probably have a lot of questions about your parental rights and the legal process. I have more than 25 years experience helping clients resolve difficult family law issues. Below I have included several of the most common questions my clients ask about child relocation. Of course, each case is different, and in order to best understand your legal position and options, contact my firm to set up a free initial half-hour consultation.
What is child relocation?
Child relocation is a general phrase used to describe the situation where a parent wants to move to another state or another area of this state with their children.
How do relocation cases usually arise?
They usually arise when a parent wants to move out of state of to another area of this state because of a new job, a job transfer, school, remarriage, or to be with family.
If I have children, can I live wherever I want?
Yes, you may live wherever you want. However, the question is whether it is in your children’s best interests to move with you.
Can I move out of state and bring my children?
You may be able to move to another state and bring your children. In Colorado, the court must consider many factors. But in general, if the court determines that such a move is in your children’s best interests, you may be able to move to another state with your children.
What factors must be addressed when deciding if I can move to another state and bring my children?
Colorado law provides numerous factors which must be considered when determining what is in your children’s best interests. If a parent wants to move at the time of initial determination, meaning when the parents are divorced or at the initial custody determination stage, the court must consider eleven specific factors listed in the statute. If a parent wants to move later, after the initial determination as a modification of the original court orders, the court must consider twenty-one specific factors listed in the statute.
How do I prepare for a relocation case?
You will need to gather information about where you want to move, including information about where you intend to live, schools the children will attend, daycare facilities, available activities for the children, etc. The court will want to see as much specific information as you can provide about your new location.
Do the courts frown upon relocation?
Under current Colorado law, neither parent has a presumed advantage. Both parents are on equal footing before the court when making such a determination.
If my children are not allowed to move with me, will I still see them?
Yes, you will still be able to have parenting time with your children. The court will set a new parenting time schedule based upon the new longer distance between the parents. Some parenting time may take place in your new location and other parenting time my take place here.
What is the difference between relocation and removal?
Relocation is a general term used to describe the situation where a parent wants to move to another state or another area of this state with their children. Removal is really the same situation, but is the term used when it arises after the initial custody determination as a modification of the original custody orders.
Is it easier to move with my children at the initial determination stage or later as a modification of the original court orders?
It is usually easier to move with your children at the initial determination stage than later as a modification of the original court orders. There are fewer factors for the court to consider at the initial determination stage. Anyone contemplating a move should seriously consider raising the issue at the initial determination stage.
Does the age of my children make a difference?
Yes, it may make a difference. The older your children the more entrenched they may be in their current school and activities thereby making it less likely the court will authorize their move. The younger the children the less entrenched they may be in their current school and activities thereby making it more likely the court will authorize their move. However, every situation is different and each situation must be evaluated on its own set of facts and circumstances.
How do I keep my children from moving out of state if the other parent wants to move?
You can either request that the court order that the children remain in Colorado and live with the parent staying here or you can request a new and different parenting time schedule which takes into account the new longer distance between the parents.
What factors should I consider when seeking to defend the relocation of my child?
You should consider what you think is best for your children. Would it be better for them to move with the other parent or would it be best for them to remain here and live with you. In making that determination, you should consider the current parenting time schedule, which parent has more time to devote to the children, the schools, daycare, family and other relevant factors surrounding the situation.
How does the Colorado court system process relocation cases?
Colorado law provides that a relocation case that arises as part of an initial determination should be processed the same as any other divorce or custody case with no greater priority on the court’s docket. However, a removal case which arises as a modification of the original court orders has priority on the court’s docket.
I am not divorced yet, but fear my child will be relocated after my divorce is final. What steps can I take to decrease the likelihood that my child is relocated?
Make sure your settlement agreement prohibits removal without the consent of the other parent or court order. Have a reasonable parenting time schedule with your children and make sure you exercise your parenting time routinely. Stay involved with your children.
Why do I need an attorney to guide me through my relocation/removal case?
These situations are almost always very contentious and complicated. Every situation is different and so the course of action which must be taken to arrive at a successful resolution may also be different. It is important for anyone contemplating a possible move or who is currently involved in one of these situations to have competent representation.
How much does it cost to bring or defend a relocation case?
Whether you are bringing or defending a relocation case the fees you can expect to incur typically vary. The amount of your fees is dependent on how contentious the situation is, whether any experts are hired, and how long it takes to resolve the matter. Usually these cases are very contentious and many have to be resolved in court which makes them more expensive. Secondly, one or both of the parents may wish to have a mental health expert appointed to investigate the situation and make recommendations to the court which adds expense to the case. There are also things you can do to keep your expenses down. You can mediate at the proper time and try to settle your case before going to court and you can limit the amount spent on mental health experts or even go without hiring a mental health expert, if necessary. Depending on how much money you can afford to spend, you and your attorney can usually formulate a strategy and an approach which fits into your budget.