If you are a single parent thinking about relocating with your child either within Colorado or out of the state entirely, it is very important to know about Colorado’s relocation statute or Move-Away Law. Depending upon the current custody arrangement and the distance that the child will be re-located, there could be some high hurdles to overcome to be able to legally and lawfully move with the child to the new location.
Depending upon the current custody arrangement, certain small moves may be acceptable and not violate the agreement. It is imperative to have counsel review the custody agreement first to determine the geographic parameters within which the child’s residence can be maintained. It is possible that the custody agreement only recognizes a lawful home for the child at their current location, in which case a court order would be needed to amend the custody agreement to allow the child to move elsewhere.
In situations where the custody agreement does not allow for the child to move far away, either within the state or outside of it, the parent seeking the move must obtain a court review and approval to move such a distance that it “substantially changes the geographical ties” between the child and the other parent.
Per the Colorado statute, the parent seeking to relocate must first notify the other parent in writing of their intent to move the child. The notice should provide the address or location where the parent is proposing to move the child, the reason for the move, and a proposed revised parenting plan. The relocating parent must then file a motion with the court to amend the custody agreement to allow the parent to move with the child. The court will then hold a hearing and applying various factors set forth in the statute, determine if the move is in the best interests of the child while also protecting the rights of both parents to have access to their child.
The court will look to the reasons for the relocation, the other parent’s reasons for opposing the move, education availability and quality for the child in both locations, whether there is extended family at the old or proposed location, and the possible impact of the move on the child, among others. If the court finds that the factors weigh in favor of the relocation, it will grant it unless the child’s health or emotional development would be impaired by the parenting time with the moving parent.
Unfortunately, the statute does not define what is a substantial geographic distance that would trigger the amendment of the custody agreement when the custody agreement is either silent on the topic or contains a specific and more narrow geographic limitation. It is always advisable to consult with knowledgeable Colorado counsel to determine if a custody agreement needs to be modified by court order for a parent to move with the child.
Unless the custody agreement is already absolutely clear that a move is allowed, any move of the child may be illegal and subject the moving parent to significant punishment including possible kidnapping charges and restriction of future parenting rights. The parent should consult counsel before taking any affirmative steps toward moving the child to ensure that they are either permitted to do so or to file the necessary motions to get approval for the move.
If you are in this situation and looking to move with your child, consider contacting Carolyn Duncan as the absolute first step in any plan to potentially relocate your child. She can help you determine your rights and responsibilities and assist you in determining your options.