PLANNING FOR RELOCATION
Planning to relocate can be exciting; personally and professionally rewarding. But it can also be complicated and stressful. This is especially true if you are divorced with children. At Peak Legal Services we are here to help with that stress. Call us at 720-835-1113. This blog will start to walk you through relocation and other things that we can help our clients think about and plan in advance.
In any given year, roughly ten percent of Americans relocate. Half of those who relocate move out of the county or state in which they reside. Colorado has had one of the highest rates of immigration in recent years among U.S. states, with an overall population growth of 11% between 2009 and 2015. Yet the rate of that growth has been slowing. While Colorado remains one of the most popular destination states, there are increasing numbers of people who are leaving the state, with a large jump occurring over the past two years. This counter- trend has been driven in part by the increases in housing costs and rental prices, lower wages relative to the cost of living, and increases in traffic issues.
The decision to relocate is motivated by a number of factors but employment opportunity, cost of living, family presence, and lifestyle considerations tend to be at the top of the list. For divorced parents, the decision to relocate is profoundly influenced by the impact a move will have on custody arrangements. The primary consideration in these arrangements are whether these moves are in the best interest of a child, and a multitude of factors are considered in this determination. The impact on visitation, proximity to family, education and recreational opportunities, and cultural and lifestyle differences are just some of the issues that need to be addressed.
There are many elements to consider in planning to relocate, more so than most people are aware. Any out of state move, or one that would cause a substantial disruption to a current arrangement, needs to be approved by the court. A skilled attorney is essential to help plan and present a relocation opportunity in order to increase the chance of success, reduce the cost of ongoing litigation, and lesson the emotional toll that these changes and procedures can incur. This article will examine the pertinent law relevant to relocation, the range of items that need to be considered in planning a relocation, and the evidence that needs to be prepared for mediating or litigating changes in custody arrangements.
The statute that governs attempts to modify a parenting plan is found in CRS 14-10-129. It is important to note that the court is inclined to not modify an agreement unless circumstances arise that warrant revisiting the agreement, or if both parties agree to a change, or in the event a child has been integrated into the family of a moving party with the other party’s consent. This disposition of the court underscores the need to have a well thought out plan for relocation with supporting evidence.
In the case where there is objections to the move, the court will take into account the following factors: the reasons why the party wishes to relocate; the reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the move; the history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting order; the educational opportunities at the existing location and proposed location; the presence or absence of extended family at the existing and proposed location; any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver; the anticipated impact of the move on the child; whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable time schedule if the new plan is permitted; and, any other factors that have bearing on the best interest of the child.
The Best Interest of the Child (BIC) is the standard utilized in your original parenting plan and these interests must also be considered in your relocation. The factors involved in this test are found in CRS 14-10-124. Section 1.5 of that statute states: “The court shall determine the allocation of parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, in accordance with the best interests of the child giving paramount consideration to the child’s safety and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child.”
The court considers a number of factors in determining BIC. These include: the wishes of the parents; the wishes of a child capable of expressing reasoned and independent preferences; the interactions and interrelationships between a child and his or her parents, siblings and other persons who significantly affect the child’s best interests; the child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community; the mental and physical health of all of those involved; the ability of the party to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact with the other party; whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support; the physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time; and, the ability of both parties to place the needs of the child ahead of their own needs.
The decision to relocate is complex in its own right. But clearly, the legal nuances of such a decision when it involves parenting plans require expertise in navigating both the planning of such a move and litigating those plans in a court of law.