In today’s economy, many families facing divorce also face another potential source of upheaval: the need to relocate due to employment, economic circumstances, and family support. If either one of you may need to relocate for your job, to move closer to family, or to decrease expenses post-divorce, anticipating this possibility at the outset of divorce proceedings is essential.
It’s also important to understand relocating doesn’t necessarily mean moving out of state. It could be that you will need to move from Denver to Colorado Springs. Regardless of how far you or your spouse may end up moving, addressing the potential—especially if your divorce involves children—will save stress, money, and heartache in the long run.
Rules for Relocating
Relocation is an issue the Colorado courts have reviewed numerous times. In 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court issued two rulings that dealt with relocating parents who share children.
In one ruling, the Court distinguished between relocation of a parent during the initial divorce and relocation of a parent after parenting time has been established. The Court determined that in an initial custody proceeding, it would be easier for a parent to move, and the parties would have to address change during their initial parenting plan.
But after initial parenting time is established, the Court determined that more stringent standards for relocation should apply because the parties and children would already be accustomed to a parenting time schedule, and the children would have established a different relationship with the majority time parent that did not exist at the time of the initial proceeding.
In a case involving modification to an existing custody agreement, the Court found that three competing interests must be considered: the majority time parent’s right to travel; the minority time parent’s right to parent; and the children’s best interests.
The Supreme Court ruling mandated that 21 factors be considered to determine if relocation is in the children’s best interests. The factors include the reasons for the relocation, educational opportunities in each location, and the past involvement of each of the parties with the children.
Children’s Best Interest
During a parenting time procedure modification, both parties are required to actively present information and facts demonstrating how the children’s best interests will be served by relocating or by remaining in place. Even if you are not the moving party, you will still have to present evidence of what parenting plan or parenting arrangement will best serve the children and why.
Moving to a Different City
As we mentioned earlier, relocation does not necessarily mean you are moving from Colorado to another state. You are relocating whenever you move your children “to a residence that substantially changes the geographical ties between the child and the other party." A move from Denver to Durango or Denver to Colorado Springs would certainly change those ties, but what about a move from Englewood to Erie? Many courts would say this is also a substantial change.
Relocation is a complex issue and comes with a myriad of emotional and social implications for you and your children. Consult an attorney for guidance during this challenging time, as modification of existing agreements is often as much of an emotional minefield as the initial proceedings were.
Relocation of any kind may require written permission from the other parent and/or negotiation with the other parent and their attorney. It will also require a revised modification agreement to be filed with the court, which can bring you back into the complex world of filing deadlines, due dates, and requirements that can wreak havoc with the delicate balance you’ve forged post-divorce.
Anticipating the potential need for relocation during your divorce process—describing how it will be handled, what will be considered, and what criteria and steps will need to be taken—specifically in your divorce documents will help decrease costly and stressful post-divorce modifications if the situation arises in the future.
The reality is that sometimes relocation happens—and it’s happening more and more as people have to go elsewhere for work. Whether it’s moving closer to an ailing family member or accepting a job in another state, life brings changes, and your children’s welfare should be your top priority at all times. Think about how you want to handle relocation ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling for a solution late in the game when emotions are running high.
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