Colorado Relocation Laws: Can Someone Move Out of State In a Divorce?

Can I Relocate Out of State with My Children When There is No Court Order?

When deciding whether to move out of state, a parent is allowed to do so if there are currently not any court orders related to an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (or Parenting Plan) within the state of Colorado. That said, discussing the relocation with the other parent is always a great way to start, as the child’s “home state” is very important. Generally, a child’s “home state” refers to the state in which the child was living for at least six (6) months prior to any filings with the court.

For instance, if your child is two years old and has been living in Colorado the entire time, then Colorado would be deemed that child’s “home state.” Once you remove the child from Colorado for purposes of relocation, then that proverbial clock restarts. Should you move to another state, say Nebraska, and are then living there for merely three (3) months when the other parent files a Petition with the court in Colorado, technically, Colorado is still the home state of the children and a court could force everyone back to Colorado while the proceedings take place.

Can I Relocate Out of State with My Children When There is a Court Order?

Should there be a court order that discusses the current parenting time schedule between you and the other parent of your children, you cannot relocate with the children out of state without the Colorado Court allowing you to do so. In order to relocate, the parent who wishes to move must file a “Motion to Relocate with the Minor Children.” At that time, the courts will generally assign a Child and Family Investigator to the matter. The purpose of the Child and Family Investigator (“CFI”) is to determine if the relocation of the minor children is in their best interest.

While a CFI can generally be used on most domestic relations cases to help determine the best interest of the children, they are utilized often for relocation cases. A CFI does an investigation where they observe the minor children interacting with both parents, speak with individuals close to both parents to determine the relationships, and provide a recommendation to the court as to what they believe should be a parenting plan should the parent relocate. Sometimes, the CFI will even visit the house out of state to help determine if a relocation is appropriate.

When determining whether a relocation is in the child’s best interest, C.R.S. 14-10-129(2)(c) sets out the following specific determinations when deciding whether a relocation is appropriate:

  1. The reasons for the relocation.
  2. The reasons why the other parent objects.
  3. The history and quality of each parent’s relationship with the child.
  4. The educational opportunities at the current and proposed new location.
  5. Whether either location has extended family.
  6. Any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver.
  7. The impact of the move on the child.
  8. Whether the court can fashion a reasonable parenting schedule if relocation is granted.
  9. Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.

Depending on the age of the children, they may have a real voice in the decision. As a rule of thumb, when trying to determine if your child’s voice will actually be heard, refer to the Rule of 7 to see just how much weight will be applied to the child’s wishes. For children aged infant to seven (7) years old, the courts are likely to determine that they are too young to have their wishes hold any weight. For ages eight (8) to fourteen (14) the courts will hold some weight to the wishes of the child. Of course, if you have multiple children in that age range, their wishes may differ, and the CFI must take both into consideration. However, if your child is fifteen (15) or older and you are wishing to relocate, the child’s wishes will generally hold a significant amount of weight to the CFI. Of course, there are numerous other facts to consider for relocating out of state, but this is an important one.

A large factor that the courts heavily rely on, for the most part, is the family ties both in Colorado and to the state which the parent is attempting to relocate to. If the children have a large support system here, are close with their family, and see them often, a court will have a tough time allowing the minor child to relocate to another state where the family connections are not prevalent. However, the same weight is held should the children have a great support system out of state. For instance, if both parents have family and connections in Massachusetts, and one party is attempting to relocate with the children to Massachusetts, the courts must take into consideration that the extended family is in Massachusetts, so benefits could lie in a relocation.

Should a court allow for a parent to relocate out of state, they will have the tough task of determining a schedule that allows for both parents to exercise time between states. Usually, the CFI recommends a schedule that can be facilitated by the parties that helps to promote the best interests of the child.

Can I Relocate in State with My Children When There is a Court Order?

So long as you are relocating to an area that does not change the geographical location between the child and the other party, you are free to move within the state. However, Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-129 informs parties that if they are requesting a change in residence that substantially changes the geographical ties between the child and the other party, then a motion is necessary (absent an agreement).

As discussed throughout the statute, the courts are mostly interested in the parent with whom the minor child resides most of the time. However, just because you are not a parent with whom the minor child resides most of the time, that does not allow you to move 200 miles away without first requesting such a move from the other parent, and the court. When in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the new location of where I am trying to live going to cause a change in the geographical location between the child and the other party?
  2. Is moving to this new location going to cause issues with the current parenting plan?
  3. Is moving within the state going to be in the best interests of the minor child?
  4. What evidence do I have that moving to this new location will benefit the minor child?

These questions are just a few of the relevant questions that the court will ask to determine whether your desire to relocate is beneficial to the minor child, and whether a realistic parenting plan is feasible. Depending on the plan you currently have with the other parent, should you relocate far away, then your parenting time will have to change. The courts, as demonstrated in the past, tend to issue a long-distance parenting plan that allows a child to remain with the parent that helps promote the best interest of the child. Usually, that forces that parenting who lives long-distance to become a summertime parent, or a parent who is only able to exercise time on extended weekends.

Can I Relocate in State with My Children When There is No Court Order?

If there is not a court order, there is not anything that is binding or prohibiting you from relocating to another area of the state. As always, speaking with your child’s other parent and being able to reach an agreement is always the end goal.

If there is no court order stating a parenting plan, you are free to relocate to another area of the state. However, be aware that if the other parent does decide to bring an action for the allocation of parental responsibility, your reasons for relocating and changing the geographical ties with the other parent will have to be explained.

The courts, when involved, will always investigate the best interests of the minor child. If they believe the child was better situated in a location that they became accustomed to, then relocating prior to a court order might not be relevant in the Court’s mind.

However, if you are relocating within an area that does not change the geographical ties between your child and the other parent, then there is no need to worry at all. The courts will not force you to ask them if you are allowed to relocate anytime you want to move. The issue is whether the parenting plan is affected; or if the geographical ties to the other parent now become an issue.

For further assistance in discussing your options or to determine your legal rights as a parent facing this issue, contact a Griffiths Law attorney today.


Robert Perrone is a Senior Associate at Griffiths Law. Robert is an experienced attorney with an accomplished track record for winning complex family and civil litigation.