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Common Challenges in Child Relocation Cases

Adapting to life after divorce is challenging for parents. It takes time to feel comfortable with parenting schedules, pick-ups and drop-offs, and adjusting to the new normal of one family in two households. But what happens when one parent’s career or personal life requires a big move outside of the area or out of the state? When a parent needs to relocate a significant distance away from the other parent, it throws a wrench in the child custody/parenting time schedule. In child custody cases, relocation presents challenges. How do divorced or unmarried co-parents handle a relocation? 

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Handling a Planned Relocation After Divorce

Some divorcing parents plan ahead to make a move after the finalization of their divorce, either for work or for personal reasons. In these cases, the relocation becomes a part of the initial child custody order. The Colorado Court makes all decisions in a child’s best interest, including child custody and parenting time schedules. Courts do not deny a parent’s right to relocate. When the parent makes their plan clear during divorce, their planned relocation becomes a part of their initial divorce orders.

A judge effectively acts as though the move has already occurred. If the parents don’t have a signed settlement agreement with a shared parenting plan and schedule, the judge must determine the schedule. If one parent lives a significant distance away, it impacts their time with their children. A judge looks at the circumstances of both parents’ homes and makes their decision based on the facts of the custody case and what they determine is in the best interests of the children. 

The court cannot prohibit a parent from relocating, but they can prohibit the children’s relocation and give primary custody to the parent who isn’t relocating and then determine a vacation visitation schedule for the out-of-town parent.

What If a Parent Decides to Relocate Later?

If a parent hopes to relocate later, after they have a child custody schedule already in place, it requires a post-decree request to modify their original child custody order. This becomes challenging if the parent wishes to relocate with the children since their existing order was based on both parents living in close proximity. A parent with primary custody, or the majority of parenting time days in their yearly schedule, who wishes to move with their children, must obtain signed consent from the other parent or permission from the court. The court must consider the following:

  • Each parent’s relationship with the children
  • The children’s close ties within the community
  • Each parent’s history of care and time spent with the children
  • Whether or not each location has family ties nearby
  • Whether or not a reasonable shared parenting schedule can be devised 
  • The child’s wishes if they are of an age to express a reasonable preference

When one parent wishes to relocate with the children, and the other parent doesn’t consent to the move, the judge considers the above factors and makes a decision that’s in the best interests of the children.

Can a Parent’s Relocation Result in a Change of Custody?

If both parents cannot agree on a new, workable parenting time schedule to put into place after the move, one parent may seek a change in custody to become the primary custodial parent with the majority of parenting time days. In these cases, the judge must decide. If you are involved in a relocation issue, contact our move away dispute attorney in Fort Collins today.

A parent’s decision to relocate becomes a complex matter for the courts to decide because the parent’s right to relocate conflicts with the other parent’s right to a continued close relationship with their child—which is what the courts consider to be in a child’s best interest.


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