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Relocation and Custody

To Move or not to Move?

Over the past few years, the housing market in the Denver metro area has exploded.  Housing prices, rent, and the cost of living in and around Denver continue to hit all-time highs.  For many, the dream of home ownership in Denver has become out-of-reach and the thought of relocating to a less expensive area is becoming more appealing. While the cost of living is certainly a significant factor, there are many other factors that you should consider before relocating your family, particularly if “custody” is an issue.

 

The decision to relocate is complicated for parents who must also consider their current child custody arrangement and the distance that their potential move might create between parents’ homes. While the court cannot tell you where you can and cannot live, the court does have the authority to determine where your children live.  Depending on the current custody arrangement and details of the proposed relocation, Colorado law generally requires a co-parent to notify the other parent before relocating a child, particularly if your move is going to impact your ability to continue with the current parenting plan without impacting your children (i.e. spending extended periods of time in the car to get to school or to the other parent’s house).

 

If your move is going to impact your ability to carry on with your current parenting schedule, then you should first discuss your move and see if you can reach an agreement with your co-parent.  If you and your co-parent cannot agree, but you still intend to move, you need to request that the court grant you permission to move.

 

In determining whether a parent may relocate a child to an area that substantially changes the distance between the child and other parent, the Court is tasked with considering eighteen different factors.  That’s right, eighteen.  This is because, in addition to the standard “best interest” factors the Court considers in an ordinary custody modification request, the court also must consider additional “relocation” factors to determine whether relocating the child is in their best interest.

 

Generally, judicial officers actually reference each and every one of these factors when issuing an Order on relocation.  Thus, if you are a co-parent looking to relocate, it’s important that you’re able to articulate why each of these factors lends itself to the relocation of your child.

 

Best Interest Factors pursuant to C.R.S 14-10-124:

  1. The wishes of the parents;
  2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature;
  3. 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;
  4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
  7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
  8. The physical proximity of the parties; and
  9. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

Relocation Factors pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129:

  1. The reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;
  2. The reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;
  3. The history and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;
  4. The educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
  5. The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
  6. Any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;
  7. The anticipated impact of the move on the child;
  8. Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and
  9. Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.

The importance of each of these factors is directly dependent on the unique facts of your case.  However, three of these factors tend to arise as the “crux” of most relocation cases.

 

Reasons Why The Party Wishes To Relocate With The Child:

 

This factor is arguably one of the most significant relocation factors. A strong relocation case almost always involves a strong argument regarding why the party wants to relocate with the child. However, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, as there are many reasons you may want to relocate. You may want to relocate to pursue better employment opportunities. Perhaps you want to relocate to an area where the cost of living is lower and you can afford better opportunities for your children. You may have strong support systems somewhere else (family, friends, etc.).

 

Educational Opportunities at The Existing Location And The Proposed New Location:

 

Many children have unique educational needs that should be considered before relocating a child. If a child has an IEP, for example, what accommodations will a child receive and are comparable services available to them in their potential new school?  If a child is exceptionally talented in an area (academically or in their extracurriculars), what type of training and resources will be available to them? Understanding and researching educational opportunities at your child’s existing location versus the proposed new location is essential before deciding to relocate, and especially before presenting your case before a court.

 

Presence or Absence of Support at The Proposed New Location:

 

In modern times, people are constantly moving to different cities, states, and even countries. This is especially true as people adjust to the “new normal” of working virtually, they are less constrained by proximity to their place of work. Courts recognize the importance of having a support system, both for parents and for their children. For many co-parents, this can be problematic, as their respective support systems (generally family) often live in different places. If this consideration is especially pertinent to you, you will need to be prepared to explain to the Court why and how you believe the presence of your support system at the proposed new location will benefit your children.

 

If you or your co-parent are considering a move, the family law attorneys at GEM Family Law are well-versed in these matters, and we can help you consider your options.  Give us a call today to schedule your free initial consultation.

 

Authored By: Attorney Heather M. Landauer and J.D. Candidate Jennifer Lepman

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