May 20, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Where Parent Indicates Desire to Relocate with Minor Children, Magistrate Has No Authority to Order Shared Parenting Time in Colorado

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Morgan on Thursday, August 8, 2018.

Dissolution of Marriage—Relocation—Parenting Time.

In this dissolution of marriage proceeding, mother notified the magistrate well before the permanent orders hearing that she wished to move with the children to California. She sought orders that would name her the children’s primary residential parent and decision-maker. Dr. Albert was appointed as an expert to conduct a parental responsibilities evaluation (PRE). He recommended that the children be allowed to relocate to California with mother and that she should have sole decision-making responsibility. At father’s request, the magistrate appointed Lieberman to perform a supplemental PRE. Lieberman recommended that the children remain in Colorado with father with shared decision-making responsibilities with mother. After a two-day evidentiary hearing, the magistrate ordered the children to remain in Colorado, finding that their best interests would be served if the parents exercised equal parenting time with mutual decision-making responsibilities.

On appeal, mother contended that the magistrate erred by entering a parenting time order requiring her to remain in Colorado. When, as here, a parent indicates before permanent orders that she intends to move, a district court has no statutory authority to order her to live in a specific location. Mother’s admission that she would not “abandon” her children and move without them did not relieve the magistrate of his obligation to make the difficult decision to allocate parenting time with mother in California and father in Colorado.

Mother also contended that the magistrate erred in ordering mutual decision-making responsibilities over her objection and in the absence of credible evidence that the parents could work together. However, the magistrate reviewed the evidence and did not abuse his discretion in finding that the parties could make joint decisions and in ordering joint decision making.

The part of the judgment allocating parenting time was reversed and the case was remanded with directions. The judgment was otherwise affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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