When a parent, who is considered the primary residential parent of children, wishes to relocate from Colorado to another state, the law will require the primary residential parent to have either of the following:
- A court order from the judge, granting the primary parent’s request to leave Colorado with the minor children;
- A statement, signed by both parents, in which the non-moving parent authorizes the relocation;
It is a good idea for any parent, who is the primary residential parent, to have the court enter an order granting the relocation request so that the moving parent can rely upon the Court’s Order, should that be necessary in the future.
Relocation is also known as “Removal.” Removal is the “permanent relocation” of the children from the State of Colorado. A relocation which “substantially changes the geographic ties between the child and the other party” is a legal issue that a judge must determine in the absence of the parent’s agreement to the contrary.
A vacation or family trip with children is not the same as “relocation or removal.” With any vacation or family trip, a parent is presumed to understand that the child is leaving on a certain date and will return when the trip or vacation ends. Therefore, vacations that either parent may have with the children do not need the permission of the court as long as the parent doing the travel is authorized to do so.
Any agreements made by parents that authorize a parent to leave Colorado, should be specific as to the notice that the parent moving will give to the non-moving parent, to include:
- All relevant contact information, phone numbers, residential address and business or employment information;
- The names and addresses of all health care providers, such as doctors and dentists;
- The location of any schools where the children will be attending, together with a list of the names of teachers;
Whenever “relocation” occurs, it is essential to revise the parent’s parenting plan. Important consideration will need to be given to the following:
- Developing a new parenting time schedule that takes into account the distance between the parents after the relocation takes place;
- The costs, if any, for travel in order for the non-moving parent to have parenting time. Colorado law provides that this is a cost or expense that is to be shared by both parents, proportionally;
- Establishing a plan that provides for regular telephone, Skype, text, email, or other forms of contact, to and from the children. In many cases, a regularly planned time throughout the week is necessary so that communication with the children is not interrupted;
- Holiday and Summer Vacation Parenting Schedules need to be determined. These schedules should that take into consideration the distance between the parents and any adjustments to the existing Parenting Plan.
The law in Colorado will not dictate that a parent cannot move from Colorado. It only dictates that children may not be able to move from Colorado. When a parent wishes to move from Colorado with the children and there have been no prior orders entered by a Court, the “best interests of the children” must be considered. When a prior order of the Court that defines the parent’s parenting time schedule exists, the court will be required to follow CRS Section 14-10-129, which is entitled: “Modification of Parenting Time.” This usually means that a verified motion must be filed with the Court by the parent who is seeking to leave Colorado with the children. Because any relocation of children from Colorado will necessarily impact the non-moving parent’s visitation schedule, there are specific circumstances that must be proven to a court before a request to relocate will be granted.
The issue of relocation or removal is a very complex area of Family Law in Colorado. There are many factors which will determine whether the request for relocation is likely to be granted by a judge. As an example, economic or employment opportunities in another state, without more, is usually not the sole determining factor that will sway a judge in granting a request to relocate from Colorado with a child. Valid and substantial reasons for relocation can make a difference in either the success or failure of a request to relocate from Colorado with children.
I have represented many clients over the years who have been either the parent who has wanted to move away with the children, or have been the parent who opposes the relocation. In either case, I can tell you that this is an area of the law that requires a great deal of experience on the part of the lawyer. Actual courtroom experience in hundreds of cases that have dealt with the legal issue of “relocation or removal,” has no substitute, when there is so much at stake.