Moving Across State Lines with an Existing Custody Arrangement

Moving out of state is a difficult and exhausting process and doing so when there is a custody arrangement in place makes it more complicated. When one parent leaves the state with a child, it can have a tremendous impact on the relationship between that child and the parent who isn’t moving. That parent will no longer be able to participate in the child’s daily life in the same way, and this can strain existing co-parenting agreements. What does someone have to do to move out of state when a custody arrangement is already in place?

What Must a Parent Do if They Plan to Relocate Out of State?

If the custodial parent, or parent with the most physical custody, of a child decides they would like to move out of the state of Colorado, they are legally obligated to inform the non-custodial parent in writing. This notice must include the following:

  • Where the parent plans to relocate with the child
  • Why they are planning on relocating
  • Ideas for revisions to the existing parenting plan

The non-custodial parent has the right to oppose the custodial parent’s move, which will result in a judge scheduling an expedited hearing. This hearing must happen within 35 days of the non-custodial parent filing their objection against the move.

How Do Courts Decide on an Interstate Parenting Plan?

Ultimately, the court is able to come to whatever conclusion they feel is the best fit because they are not required to tell the parents which factors in the case they are weighing more heavily than others. Some of the things the court will consider when a relocation hearing occurs include:

  • The best interests of the child
  • Whether either parent has a prior conviction for domestic violence
  • Why the custodial parent has decided to relocate
  • The quality of the child’s relationship with each parent
  • What opportunities the child has for education in each place
  • Whether the child will have access to their extended family in either location or whether the move will disrupt those relationships
  • Whether the child has an advantage living with the current custodial parent
  • How the move will impact the child overall
  • Whether the court will be able to establish a reasonable parenting schedule if the custodial parent ends up moving

The Burden of Proof

In most cases brought before a court of law, one of the parties is responsible for providing proof, which means that they must prove their case to support what they are seeking. However, child relocation cases are different in that both parties share the burden of proof, and the court will take all of the evidence presented and decide what they feel is best for the child. The court also has the responsibility of coming up with potential custody arrangements for each possible scenario, including:

  • If the custodial parent relocates with the child
  • If the custodial parent decides not to relocate
  • If the custodial parent relocates without the child

Can I Move Out of State Without Notifying Anyone?

Moving out of state with a child if the custody arrangement has not been revised beforehand is illegal. Colorado has adopted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act. This allows the state to impose preventative orders on parents if they believe the child may be wrongfully removed from the state. The prevention measures the court can put in place if the non-custodial parent is able to prove that their child is at risk of being wrongfully relocated include:

  • Travel restrictions on the parent planning to move
  • Orders that make the parent planning to move unable to pick the child up from school or from daycare
  • Confiscation of the moving parent’s passport, as well as the child’s passport
  • Orders that direct law enforcement to locate and return the child if necessary
  • Orders that make the parent post bond as a deterrent to abducting the child

How Do Courts Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

Every child is different; however, the court considers similar criteria in most cases that require them to determine what is in the best interests of a child. When courts must make or change custody arrangements, they have to apply the best interests of the child as a universal standard for coming to a conclusion. This is especially important when the court is deciding whether a child can move out of state with the custodial parent. The following factors are considered by the courts when determining the best interests of a child in Colorado:

  • The wishes of the parents: The desires of each parent regarding how much custody they want to have will be considered, especially if the court determines each parent desires to act in the best interests of the child.
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is mature enough to reasonably express such wishes: Colorado courts do not begin considering child wishes in custody cases at a specific age. They will consider the child’s wishes if they determine the child is mature enough to express their preferences without too much influence from either parent. Ultimately, courts do not like to make children choose.
  • The quality of the child’s relationship with their parents, their siblings, and other family: Familial relationships are important for children, and the court will consider all family members before settling on a custody arrangement. This is done to ensure the child gets ample time with all family members, not just their parents.
  • The child’s connection to their community: It is the preference of most courts to keep children connected to their community for as long as possible.
  • The physical and mental health of all parties: The court considers whether all parties are healthy, and this may include things such as drug testing for the parents. However, the court cannot restrict parenting time based on a disability alone.
  • Whether each parent can encourage a positive relationship between the child and other parent: The court likes to make sure that the custodial or majority parent can encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent and that they do not intentionally damage that relationship.
  • The ability of each parent to place the child’s needs ahead of their own: The court wants to ensure that each parent will put their child first, and that they aren’t acting selfishly or vindictively when making custody requests.

Contact an Attorney Today

If you are a custodial parent and you are looking to move out of state, contact the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC today. Parent relocation can be difficult; however, we work with our clients to ensure a resolution and smooth transition of child custody through support and experienced legal counsel. We understand that child custody cases are emotional, which is why we treat all of our clients with empathy. Contact us today at (303) 647-4245 or via our contact form.