Being able to travel with children can be one of the joys of parenting, but it can become cumbersome, painful, and sometimes impossible when trying to make travel plans in a co-parenting situation. Travel outside of the state of Colorado and outside of the United States can add additional complications, and recent events have also highlighted complications that arise when public health crises are involved.
If you share children with another parent but do not have any kind of formal court case that allocates parenting time between you, then you probably do not have any actual restrictions on your right to travel with your children. That also means that you do not have any easy way to prevent your co-parent from traveling with the children either, however, because until you have orders from a court, you are both in limbo. You should always be cautious about how your travel plans will be viewed by a judge, however, so if you want to travel with your kids and know your co-parent opposes the trip, your co-parent may use that trip as a basis to file a petition for divorce or for the allocation of parental responsibilities.
If you have already gone to court regarding your children, then the question of whether you can travel with your children will depend on what stage of your case you are in and what the existing orders in your case say.
When parties begin a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or allocation of parental responsibilities case, an automatic temporary injunction goes into effect that prevents both parents from removing the children from Colorado without the other parent’s consent or a court order. C.R.S. § 14-10-107(4)(b) is the injunction in dissolution of marriage and legal separation cases, and C.R.S. § 14-10-123(3)(a)(II) is the injunction for parental responsibilities cases. When the temporary injunction is in effect, you cannot even drive up to Wyoming for the day unless your co-parent agrees or the court allows you to.
Once the court issues a decree of dissolution of marriage or enters permanent orders in an allocation of parental responsibilities case, the automatic temporary injunction disappears, and parents are no longer prevented from traveling outside Colorado unless the orders in their case specifically limit that travel.
The first place to look for guidance on when and how you can travel with your children is the actual Parenting Plan or Permanent Orders in your case. Some plans allow travel so long as you provide notice to the other parent. Some require detailed itineraries and information regarding how to contact the children while they are traveling. Some require consent from the other parent in order to travel or to visit certain locations.
In addition to the legal limitations, you may have practical hurdles to overcome. Some airlines require a letter or consent form from the other parent if you are traveling alone with your children. As an attorney, I have heard stories from clients of particular airlines or TSA agents not allowing a child to board a plane without travel authorization from the other parent even if the airline itself does not have such a policy. Those situations seem to occur more frequently when international travel is involved.
Co-parenting disputes surrounding travel can become complicated and contentious. The actual orders in an individual case will provide the most guidance regarding what a parent can and cannot do. If you are the parent who wants to travel with the children, plan your trip with as much advance notice as you can so you have time to get help from the court if you need it. If you have concerns about the other parent traveling with the children, you also want to act quickly to make sure the court has time to intervene, if necessary.