The end of a divorce is your chance to start over with a new chapter for your life. But when that new chapter takes place in a new city or state, it can cause trouble for co-parents sharing parental responsibility and time with their children. You may wonder if you are allowed to relocate with your child, and what you should do to make sure your moving request is granted.
Moving When You Separate
Often, Colorado families separate informally before either party is ready to file for divorce. Colorado law treats mothers’ and fathers’ parental rights equally. This means that when you separate, either parent could relocate out of state with the child while the parties are still married.
You also have the option to file for a legal separation. If you do so and have children together, that legal separation will establish child custody and allocate parental responsibility between the parents. It can also provide for child support. Once that happens, the relocation process is the same as any other case with a divorce or custody order.
Moving During the Divorce
As soon as your divorce begins, an order will be entered preventing either party from removing the child from the state. That order keeps you from relocating with your child, even temporarily, without permission from the other party or the court. It isn’t hard to get your spouse’s consent or the court’s permission to travel out of state for holidays, vacations, or trips. However, it is very rare that the court will allow one party to relocate with the child while the divorce case is pending.
Removal as Part of the Divorce Decree
Colorado law says that family court judges can’t keep parents from relocating on completion of their divorce. Judges must accept each parent’s choice of where they want to live and then allocate parental responsibilities based on the best interests of the children, as though the parents have already moved.
However, there may still be consequences for a parent choosing to move away from the children’s established home. A Colorado court could, for example, order two separate parenting time plans: one if the parent remains close to home, and the other if the parent moves away. In some cases, this can result in a parent “losing custody” and receiving a reduced visitation amount if they choose to relocate after the divorce is entered.
Relocating with Your Child After Divorce
Once the divorce is final, your parenting plan and allocation of parental responsibilities go into effect. They become the rules for your family until the youngest child becomes an adult, or until adjusted by the court. That can be years. If circumstances change and you need to relocate with your child after divorce, you may need to file a Motion for Relocation.
What to Include in Your Child Custody Relocation Letter
The first step to any Motion for Relocation is to send written notice to your co-parent “as soon as practicable.” This relocation letter should include:
A clear statement of your intent to relocate (don’t use words like “may” or “possible”)
Where you will be relocating to
Why you need to move (i.e. a new job offer, to care for family, to get support from loved ones)
A suggested parenting plan update that accounts for the distance
The last part is the most important. The success of any relocation after divorce depends on the parties, or the court, being able to put together a parenting plan that protects the children’s relationship with both parents.
It is important to act quickly once you find out you need to move. It may take you and your co-parent time to come to a resolution, or for the court to hear your Motion for Relocation. Job offers and housing opportunities may not wait. But you are not allowed to relocate with your child until after a stipulation or order altering the parenting plan has been entered by the court. If you move first and then seek permission, it could hurt your chances in court.
Relocating With Your Child Due to Military Service
If you are an active-duty servicemember, you may not have control over when or where you are required to move. Members of the armed forces can be deployed or reassigned with little notice, or opportunity to seek court approval. Your military status does not keep you from having custody of your children.
However, you are entitled to a different procedure if you are required to relocate due to your military service. The Colorado Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) provides an expedited process for service members facing deployment or reassignment. It also allows you to move while the case is pending, if necessary. Should you be deployed when your co-parent files a Motion for Relocation, you can ask the court to postpone the hearing until you are able to participate.
How to Win a Child Custody Relocation Motion in Colorado
Winning a Motion for Relocation can change your life. Losing one can cause you to miss out on job opportunities and chances to improve your circumstances. A lot rests on your ability to put forward a parenting plan that respects your co-parent’s needs and the best interests of your children. The most successful parenting plans:
Are based on a necessary move with the chance to improve your children’s lives
Maintain the same allocation of parental responsibilities, to the extent possible given the distance between the parties
Do not significantly reduce parenting time with the non-relocating parent
Schedules parenting time to coordinate with your children’s school and family holidays
Include electronic or telephone contact with children between in-person parenting times
Account for transportation times and costs
Are centered on what is best for the children