Change of Domicile in a Michigan Divorce

Almost every divorce judgment or custody order will have a limitation preventing a parent from moving a child more than 100 miles from the courthouse without the Court’s permission.  When a party wants to move a child out of the State of Michigan, the party must obtain permission from the court by filing a Motion for Change of Domicile.

Common reasons people seek to change domicile are:

  • They have better job opportunities
  • They have been unemployed in Michigan for a long time and have a better opportunities elsewhere
  • Spouse in the military being transferred
  • Spouse being transferred for work, or
  • Seek to attend school out of state.

It is not automatic that courts grant these motions.  Even where the move is not voluntary a court can still decide that the rights of the other parent outweigh the economics of the desire to move.  It is very important that the process be started as soon as it is known that a move is necessary.  Each individual judge has their own policies on handling these motions but some will take 2-3 months to make a final decision.  Others move more quickly.

The law in Michigan requires the court to consider four factors when deciding a motion for a change of domicile.  They are set forth in MCL 722.31.  They originate from case law and the adoption in Michigan of a New Jersey court ruling in D’onofrio v D’onofrio, 144 NJ Super 200 (1976):  The factors are:

  1. The court should consider the prospective advantages of the move in terms of its likely capacity for improving the general quality of life for both the custodial parent and the children.
  2. It must evaluate the integrity of the motives of the custodial parent in seeking the move in order to determine whether the removal is inspired primarily by the desire to defeat or frustrate visitation by the noncustodial parent and whether the custodial parent is likely to comply with the substitute visitation orders when she (or he) is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state.
  3. It must likewise take into account the integrity of the noncustodial parent’s motives in resisting the removal and consider the extent to which, if at all, the opposition is intended to secure a financial advantage in respect to continuing support obligations.
  4. Finally, the court must be satisfied that there will be a realistic opportunity for visitation in lieu of the weekly pattern which can provide an adequate basis for preserving and fostering the parental relationship with the noncustodial parent if removal is allowed.

Prevailing on a Motion for Change of Domicile requires preparation and planning.  We have the experience and knowledge to guide you through this process.  Please contact our office immediately for more information. We have helped family law clients in Oakland County, Troy, Novi, Royal Oak, Bloomfield Hills, Rochester Hills, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield, and Birmingham.

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