When your co-parent decides to relocate

One of the most devastating announcements to hear may be your ex-spouse telling you he or she plans to move away with the children. For some, this move may take them to another state or out of the country.

There could be many reasons for this move. Perhaps your ex has received a great job offer, wants to be closer to family or simply wants a fresh start. The most painful reason may be that your spouse has met someone new, and the two have decided to relocate as a family.

If your spouse declared his or her decision to relocate out of the state before you signed divorce papers, chances are all parties discussed the issue during settlement proceedings. However, if the decision came after time had passed, you can expect to take your dispute to court.

Colorado follows certain protocol

Your ex-spouse has decided to move, and maybe he or she called you or stopped by to discuss the matter with you. Even if he or she did this as a courtesy, parents seeking to relocate out of the state must file for a modification in child custody orders. The laws concerning child custody and relocation are different in every state, and Colorado courts have specific guidelines your co-parent must follow, including:

  1. Notifying you in writing of the intent to relocate with your child
  2. Informing you where the proposed new residence will be
  3. Explaining why he or she is relocating
  4. Proposing a parenting plan that will allow the child access to you

It is possible that your situation would allow you to accommodate this move and that the parenting plan your ex-spouse offers is acceptable, or at least negotiable. If so, a modification will probably be easy to obtain. However, if you disapprove of the plan, you have a right to contest it.

What happens next?

To a judge, it won’t make much difference to hear that the move will bring your spouse closer to family or increase his or her income unless those factors also improve the quality of life for your child. Above all, the judge will have to decide if those factors outweigh the benefits the child will have living closer to you. Your ex-spouse will have to prove that the separation from you will have minimal negative impact on your child.

Similarly, it may not be enough for you to complain that you will miss your child or that traveling to visit will be too expensive. The court focuses on the good of the child. The judge will want to hear how the move will affect the child, negatively or positively.

To prepare for this hearing, many parents turn to an attorney with years of practice in family law. An attorney can help you fight the relocation if you feel your child will suffer from the move or negotiate to develop a parenting plan that will consider the best interests of your child and protect your parental rights. Because of the complexities of post-decree modifications, the assistance and knowledge of an attorney is invaluable.