Denver Relocation Attorney
In many divorce cases involving child custody orders, the initial custody arrangements set forth by a court-ordered parenting plan, although effective upon the dissolution of the marriage, can eventually become obsolete. Life changes can eventually force a court-ordered modification of the original divorce terms. That preliminary parenting plan and custody agreement may have been more suited to your family’s needs and circumstances during a time in your life following your divorce, but now your situation has changed, and a new plan is necessary to accommodate the shifts in your or your child’s other parent’s life.
Woody Law Firm, LLC: Your Denver Relocation Attorneys
Having a reputable family law attorney working on your side can only help your relocation case. Woody Law Firm, LLC, believes that no one should have to go without essential legal advice because they think they can’t afford it. For this reason, Woody Law Firm, LLC, offers affordable rates to our Denver, Colorado clients. Because of what’s at stake, you can’t afford to go into a family law case without a lawyer, and this is especially true in custody and relocation cases. Each custody attorney at our firm is backed by positive client reviews, a successful record of custody, divorce, and relocation cases, and the firm’s award-winning reputation.
Relocation in Colorado Family Courts
Life changes sometimes necessitate child custody terms, visitation schedules, child support orders, and/or parenting plans. These terms are essential to your family’s well-being and must be amended to incorporate the exciting but important events that sometimes change a family’s situation. When a parent makes the decision to relocate due to a new job, work transfer, college studies, or remarriage, it can take the child away from their other parent, which can be extremely difficult for the child.
While there are many potential reasons a parent might feel like relocation is necessary, when you share the custody or visitation rights of your children with another parent, there is a legal process that you must follow to move your children away from their other parent. This serves the purpose of protecting the child’s interests.
Can a Parent Leave Colorado With Their Child?
During divorce proceedings, or amid a pending separation, it is against the law for one parent to move the children from the marriage out of Colorado without permission from a family law judge or the other parent. Once the divorce is finalized, Colorado family courts are in favor of keeping a child close to both parents and prefer that both parents be involved in their child’s day-to-day life.
When one parent decides to relocate and also retain custody or visitation rights, they must notify the other parent in writing. By law, the notice must include a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind the move, information regarding where they plan to move, and a proposal for a new visitation schedule. If the other parent opposes the move, they must file their objection with the court. Child relocation cases are given priority on the Colorado family law court docket, and families can expect to get a relocation hearing within 35 days from the date the objection was filed. The objection may be due to the relocation of the child or just the proposed parenting plan, and relocation may be part of the initial custody order or as a post-divorce move, though Colorado family courts apply a different set of standards when ruling on pre-divorce and post-divorce relocation cases.
Child Relocation Hearing
At the relocation hearing, it is left up to a Colorado family court judge to decide if the move will benefit or harm the well-being of the child. When a judge decides on a relocation case, the following factors may be considered:
- Advantages and disadvantages of the move for the child
- Reason for the relocation
- Reason for the other parent’s objection
- Ability of both parents to meet the demands of the new schedule and its feasibility, especially if the move is out of state
- Relationship the child has with both parents
- Educational opportunities for the child at either location
- Extended family at both locations
- How the child might be affected by moving
- Transportation costs and their affordability by each parent
The courts may also consider and require a modification of child support. Additionally, when a child is sufficiently mature to express an independent and valid preference for parenting time and visitation schedules, a judge may also weigh the child’s preference. Colorado does not name a certain age at which children are allowed to choose to live with one parent over another. However, children can refuse court-ordered visitation at the age of maturity. Again, there is no exact age for this allowance, but it’s typically around 14 years old when most children reach that level of maturity.
Burden of Proof
In cases of out-of-state child relocation, in which one parent opposes the move, both parents bear the burden of demonstrating to the court what custody arrangement and living situation would serve the child’s needs. However, the greatest burden of proof falls on the moving parent. In many cases, a family law attorney may recommend and assist with bringing in testimonies from credible professionals who can verify what is most beneficial for the child. These types of witnesses include parental responsibility evaluators (PRE), child and family investigators (CFI), and other professionals with roles in childhood-development-related fields.
For a parent who is requesting permission from the court to relocate their child a significant distance away from their other parent, it is important to show the court proof of an enriching life. This means providing any potential data you can collect that speaks to the fact that it is to the advantage of your child to move. The types of data the moving parent should provide include demographic statistics for the new location and information on the neighborhood, schools, and cultural and extracurricular activities.
If you are the opposing parent, and wish to fight your child’s other parent to keep your child in Colorado, you will also need to back up your reasoning for contesting the move. The opposing parent should present information or evidence that the child’s current Colorado community is better than the place the other parent wishes to relocate them to. If the move is to a different area within the state, they must show the negative impact on the child of a move to a new Colorado community where the other parent proposes to go with the child.
Relocation Without Formal Court-Ordered Custody
If no formal custody arrangement exists, establishing one before you relocate your child is a smart move. However, if you plan to leave the state with your child, there is nothing the other parent or the law can legally do to stop you.
Sometimes, out of selfishness or for spiteful reasons, one parent will leave with their child to prevent them from having parenting time with their other parent. If a non-custodial parent, as named by court order, violates the court-ordered parenting plan by refusing to return the child to the custodial parent, it is referred to as custodial interference. If a parent leaves the state with the child, thus preventing the child from benefiting from a relationship with the other parent, Colorado family law defines this as parental kidnapping, and this constitutes a class 5 felony. If the parent takes the child outside of the country, it is a class 4 felony.
What to Do If Your Child’s Other Parent Takes Your Child Without Your Consent
If your child’s other parent, whether custodial or non-custodial, takes your child without your consent, act immediately. If you fear for your child’s safety, call the police. Otherwise, speak with a family lawyer and request an emergency or expedited relocation hearing with the family court. There are resources available to help get your child returned to you and hold the other parent accountable. One of the most influential resources available is an aggressive custody attorney who can work hard on your case on behalf of your family.
Enlisting the Help of a Denver Custody Relocation Attorney
Custody relocation cases can get extremely complicated and emotional for all parties involved. A modification of the parenting plan may be necessary, even if the relocation is in-state. A Denver family lawyer who is experienced in divorce and custody cases that involve child relocation is imperative in these situations. A family lawyer who is sensitive to the intricacies of state law regarding the well-being and interests of the child, as well as the court’s obligation to uphold that interest, can be an invaluable resource to have when entering into legal proceedings for relocation.
Anyone facing custody or relocation issues should understand the law and how it applies to child relocation cases in Colorado, as well as consider what’s at stake. Woody Law Firm, LLC, can explain the law as it applies to your family’s court proceedings. Our firm can work to help you throughout the entire process and allow you to achieve your desired outcome. Contact Woody Law Firm, LLC, and schedule a meeting to discuss your case today.