Many parents involved in custody disputes struggle with the question of whether they should relocate out of the state of Colorado. Whether a parent is forced to relocate due to employment or chooses to relocate to be closer to family, it is important to consider the right time to request your relocation.

In an initial custody determination, such as a dissolution of marriage, allocation of parental responsibilities, or a paternity action, the case of Spahmer v. Gullette and C.R.S. § 14-10-124 control how the court will approach an argument for relocation.

C.R.S. §14-10-124 outlines the “best interests of the child” standard and directs the court to make an initial determination and allocation of parenting time after considering 11 statutory factors which have been deemed by the legislature to represent the best interests of the child. The case of Spahmer v. Gullette details how this “best interests” standard should be applied to the initial custody determination where a party is seeking to with the minor child.

The most important outcome of the Spahmer case is that in an initial determination of custody, a Court has no statutory authority to order a parent to live in a specific location. Rather, the court must accept the location in which each party intends to live, and allocate parental responsibilities accordingly in the best interests of the child.

As a result, in an initial custody determination, the court must look at where each parent intends to live with the child and then make a decision regarding parenting time in the best interests of the child based on each parent’s intended location. By way of example, if Mom intends to live in Georgia with the minor child and Dad intends to live in Colorado with the minor child, the court will need to apply the best interests standard to the child’s standard of life in Georgia and to the child’s standard of life in Colorado. The court will then make a determination of where the child should live based on the application of the best interest factors in each location.

The impact of Spahmer and Ciesluk has been profound. Now that courts may no longer presume that children are better off with two nearby parents instead of one, parties cannot successfully oppose relocation by arguing simply that the other party should not move. Parties must provide evidence that the statutory factors support a finding that a proposed move is in the best interests of the child.

Parties must be able to provide detailed explanations of what the child's life would be like if the child were to live with their clients, and how that life would be better for the child than that offered by the other parent. The parent opposing relocation cannot prevail simply by arguing that "losing" one parent because of the move would not be in the child's best interests.

Each relocation case will be fact-specific. Thus, attorneys have a hard time advising clients as to how a case most likely will be resolved. There is very little predictability in relocation cases and cases require more investigation, evidence, and factual analysis then ever before.

Contact the attorneys at The Harris Law Firm if you are currently in a custody dispute and considering relocating from the state of Colorado.