Americans are a mobile people. It has been noted that the “average
American” moves about 12 times in a lifetime. The United States
Constitution gives Americans the “right” to “travel”,
i.e. to move among the various states without barriers or permission.
Since the Great Recession, wage earners have found they must be prepared
to move every year or two in order to keep up with the changing job market—or
just the evolution of their career.
marital dissolution (divorce) cases, Colorado courts are required to allocate parental responsibilities, and
physical custody, of the children of the marriage in a manner that best serves the “best
interest” of the child. When one of the parents has moved from Colorado
before the final parenting orders are entered, the court will look to
enter parenting orders that reflect the “proximity” of the
parent to the child, as well as an abundance of other factors.
However even after the divorce is final, during the child’s time
of dependency, one or both parents are likely to want to move from Colorado
to another state. Since the court retains jurisdiction over the child
until the child is 19 years old, does the parent have to have permission
of the court to leave Colorado? In short, yes. If the child resides with
the parent, and will be moving with the parent out of Colorado and away
from the other parent, the court must give permission for the move.
Noting the urgency of
relocation requests, courts give relocation hearings priority on the court’s docket.
During these hearings, the court will be required to balance the rights
of all parties:
- The constitutional right of a parent to move, find a new job and a new life
- The constitutional right of a parent to the care and control of his/her child
- The best interests of the child under the circumstances
The court will begin its analysis with each parent on an equal footing.
The court will not presume that a child is better off, or disadvantaged,
by relocating with either parent. Rather, the majority time parent will
have the duty to present specific, non-speculative information about the
child’s proposed new living conditions, as well as a concrete plan
for modifying parenting time as a result of the move. The minority time
parent may choose to contest the relocation in its totality and thus seek
to become the majority time or primary residential parent. Alternatively,
the minority time parent may choose not to contest the relocation, but
rather object to the revised parenting plan proposed by the majority time
parent and, therefore, present his or her own parenting plan.
In short, each parent has the burden to persuade the court that the relocation
of the child will be in—or contrary to—the
child’s best interests or that the parenting plan he or she proposes should be adopted by the
court. The focus is always on the best interest of the child. This means
that the court may decide that it is not in the best interests of the
child to relocate with the majority time parent. Then, if the majority
time parent still wishes to relocate, a new parenting time plan will be
necessary. Alternatively, the court may decide that it is in the best
interests of the child to relocate with the majority time parent. In that
situation, the court will fashion a parenting time plan that protects
the constitutional right of the minority time parent to care for and control
Issues of a parent’s relocation after a divorce can be tense and
family law attorneys, such as those at Clawson & Clawson LLP, have the steady hand of experience
to help guide a parent through this process. The process will offer the
opportunity for parents to work together but, if no agreement can be reached,
Clawson & Clawson attorneys will present all the evidence about the parent’s relocation to the
court in a way to best inform the court to help reach the best decision
possible for all parties—most especially for the child.