Upon a divorce being finalized, and joint custody being assigned, a parenting plan is put into place in the state of Colorado and most other states. This plan provides for legal and residential custody, as well as details the visitation rights of a non-custodial parent. If one of the custodial parents wants to relocate, there is a body of Colorado family law that addresses this situation. In all cases, the welfare of the children is the first concern of the courts.
Basic Obligations of the Custodial Parent Regarding Relocation
The first obligation of the custodial parent is to notify the non-custodial parent of the intention to relocate.
This notification should be best in written form and include the following:
- The intent to relocate
- The location of the new place
- The reasons for the relocation
- A proposed new parenting plan
If both parents reach an agreement on the relocation and the changes in the visitation schedule, the agreement simply must be filed with the court. If agreement cannot be reached, there are two options – mediation or court hearings around child custody order modifications.
How Far Away Can a Custodial Parent Move?
Legally, there is no limitation on how far away the custodial parent can move from the other one. If matters get contested, the mediator and/or the court will have the final say on how far the other parent can move. Some custodial parents have even moved to foreign countries, while others have been denied moves to other states. Again, the main focus is on the welfare of the minor child and the quality of his family life. This is also weighted against the right of an individual to move.
Will a Custody Agreement Need to Be Modified?
If the original child custody agreement will no longer work after a relocation, yes, that agreement will have to be modified. Again, if both parents agree on a modification, it simply needs to be filed with the court. If there is disagreement, then mediation or a court hearing must be held.
How Colorado Courts Make Decisions on Custody Order Modifications
Especially in cases of joint custody, the court must first determine what is in the best interests of the child. But there are other considerations that must be presented:
- Reasons for the relocation
- Reasons why the other parent objects to this move
- The history of the parents’ relationships with their children since the original decree
- A comparison of the current child’s educational situation and that of the proposed new location
- Location of extended family members
- Possible impact on the child of the move
- If appropriate visitation for the other parent is still feasible
- Any other factors the court deems important that would have an impact on the child
- Any other factors relevant in considering the best interests of the child
Be aware that a move within the state you currently live in is still considered to be a relocation and can prompt the other parent to seek modifications.
When to Get Help With a Custody and Relocation Issue
If either parent contemplates the possibility of a move in the future, the best thing is to bring this up during the initial divorce negotiations. In this way, the parenting plan can include what the parties have agreed to. Of course, this may not always be possible.
Relocation of one parent in a joint custody situation will always have an impact on minor children. And it can be a complicated and contentious issue when the non-moving parent objects. The overriding concern of the courts is always the welfare of the child, and both parents must press their cases carefully.
For this, it is always best to consult with an attorney. If you want to discuss your Colorado relocation issue with us, we can provide the expert advice you need.