Relocating with a child: What parents in Colorado should know

Divorced parents who wish to relocate with a child in Colorado must give notice and obtain approval if the proposed move is geographically substantial.

According to recent Census data, about 12 percent of people in the United States - or one in nine people - complete a move each year. For various reasons, relocation may be even more common among the recently divorced. Upon starting a new and independent life, many people may move to pursue career opportunities, seek family support or simply make a fresh start.

Unfortunately, for divorced parents who share custody of minor children, the process of relocating can be complicated, since each parent's wishes and the best interests of the child must be taken into account. As a result, it is critical for parents in Colorado to understand their rights and responsibilities during the relocation process.

Notification requirements

Under state law, the parent who wants to relocate with the child must give the other parent written notification of his or her plans. With this notification, the parent must provide the modified parenting plan that she or he proposes. The parent must also include specific information about the reasons for the relocation and the location that he or she plans to move to.

Parents must give this written notice for both in-state and out-of-state relocations. Ideally, parents should give the notice before filing a legal motion for relocation. If this is not feasible, parents must give notice as soon as possible after filing.

Best interests standard

If relocating with a child will substantially change the geographic distance between the residences of the child and the other parent, the other parent has the right to object to the move. When this occurs, a family law court must assess whether the relocation is in the child's best interests. The court may weigh several factors to make this decision, including the following:

· How the move will impact the child. Specifically, the court may examine how the move will affect the child's educational opportunities, access to extended family and general well-being.

· The reasons for the relocation and the objection. The court may consider whether each parent has legitimate motivations or is simply trying to impede the other parent.

· The relationship between the child and each parent. If one parent has acted as the primary caregiver or enjoyed a closer relationship with the child, the court will take this into account.

The court may also consider harmful behaviors on the part of one parent, such as domestic violence, and the feasibility of both parties sharing parental responsibility if the relocation is permitted.

Handling a relocation

For many parents, maintaining compliance with state laws while navigating the relocation process can be difficult, as can making an effective case for a relocation. For assistance in both areas, most parents who are preparing for a move can benefit from seeking the help of an attorney who has experience handling these difficult cases.