Robbins: Relocation with children following divorce
The dust has settled. Well, at least sorta. The War of the Roses has been consigned to the personal history book of your life. You have divvied things up, moved on and, perhaps moved out, settled on who pays what and who gets what, and figured out a schedule for who will spend what time with the kids.
Something that’s beginning to feel like a routine — the new normal — has finally settled in. And then, whoops, as life is wont to do, you have to field a curveball. One or the other of you — the parent and ex-spouse — wants to move. Not just from EagleVail to Avon, mind you, but let’s say from Happy Valley to Poughkeepsie!
Maybe it’s a job opportunity driving this particular disruptive train. Or maybe it’s a new love interest. Or maybe it’s as simple as “I’ve got family in Poughkeepsie who can help me out.” Plus, and it’s not a small plus in Happy Valley, “Do you know what the cost of living in Poughkeepsie is compared to Vail?!”
You approach the ex. “What would you think,” you ask, “about me moving to Poughkeepsie?”
After a sideways tilt of the head you get a hearty “Bon voyage!”
But then you add, “With the kids, I mean.”
To which you get an “Over my dead body!”
You resist the urge to snidely respond, “Well, that can be arranged.” Instead, you defer to, “Then I suppose that that’s a no?”
You try to work things out between you. You explain and reason. You may resort to pleading. Maybe you edge in a subtle threat or two. Then, at last, you each fetch back the attorneys who shepherded you through the minefield of divorce. And, as the knives are sharpened, you prepare to duke it out in court.
The question lingering for resolution is pretty simple. When, against the wishes of your ex, may you hie off to new pastures with the kids in tow?
Well, there’s an app for that.
More specifically, there’s Colorado Revised Statute section 14-10-129(1)(a)(II) which provides that where a party seeks to change the residence and the same would have a change in the geographical ties between the child(ren) and the other party, the court must look into the best interest of the minor children.
Some of those “interests” include:
- The reasons the relocating parent wishes to relocate with the children. What’s behind this? “To get away from Stupid” is a poor response.
- The history and quality of the parties’ relationship with the children. Who has spent what time with the children doing exactly what?
- Educational opportunities at the existing location. How might their little brains be enhanced?
- The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and the new location.
- The advantages of the children residing primarily with one parent or another.
- The court’s ability to fashion a reasonable alternative parenting schedule.
Overall, there may be as many as 20 different factors to consider. Always, though, a court’s sole duty is to determine the best interests of the minor children based upon the facts of each individual case, considering any benefits the children may enjoy by relocating with the majority time parent.
In the end, the court will labor to always do what’s best.
It should be noted that “just ‘cause” is not a good reason. Neither is it sufficient that the reasoning of a parent who wishes to relocate with the children is that it is best for him or her. What matters is the welfare of the children and that is the light the court will always shine on consideration of a potential move.
Often what goes with a move is a complete restructuring of the parenting plan. Instead of every other weekend and Wednesday on the off week, in order to maintain meaningful contact with the parent left behind, he or she may get substantial blocks of time during vacation times and summers. The goal is to maintain parental contact with each parent even if they are separated by the Poconos, the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the law.
The one dependable thing in life to count on is that stuff happens, sometimes in unexpected ways. And though the law is far from perfect, it will strive, to the greatest extent it can, to make lemonade out of lemons.
As the distance grows between former partners and they move on with their lives, the unexpected often happens and when it does, the children, by necessity, get swept along. But when one parent wishes to relocate, the reasons must be good and, upon a careful balancing, must weigh its fingers on the scale in favor of the welfare of the kids.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody and divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Robbins’ new novel, "How to Raise a Shark (an apocryphal tail tale)," is available at Amazon.com.
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