If you have children and are considering moving out of state, especially if you are the primary custodial parent of the minor child(ren), you must first get the other party’s written consent or petition the court to enter an Order allowing you to leave the State of Michigan with the children. In all Judgments of Divorce and Custody Orders, language is required, commonly referred to as the “change of domicile” provision, which usually says something similar to this:
The domicile or residence of the minor child shall not be removed from the State of Michigan without the prior written approval of both parties, or by order of the judge who awarded custody or his successor.
The purpose for this provision is to ensure that a custodial parent’s move out of state is legitimate and not as a means to frustrate or deny the non-custodial parent access to the minor child(ren).
With the downturn in the economy and the increasing lay-offs, buy-outs and current unemployment rate in Michigan, change of domicile is becoming a hot topic in family law cases.
In the most simple circumstances, the parties agree to the change of domicile, which usually means a change in the parenting time schedule, and both parties sign a written agreement, which if approved by the court, is entered as an order. However, changes of domicile cases are rarely ‘simple’ and often take some creative thinking.
If the parties cannot mutually agree on a change of domicile, the party can file a petition to change domicile. (Note: filing the petition does not allow you to move, it only begins the process of seeking court approval of the move). It is important to start you change of domicile proceeding well before you plan to actually move. It often takes many months before a final decision can be made by the court, if the other side is not agreeable to the terms you are offering. An evidentiary hearing will be conducted at which time the party seeking a change of domicile must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the change in domicile is warranted.
Even if the court grants a change of domicile, the challenge does not end here. When parents live in different states, continuing a parent-child relationship becomes more difficult, but is still possible, so long as the parent left behind continues to have substantial and quality parenting time with the minor child(ren). The Court must therefore determine that it is in the best interest of the child to give the moving party primary custody of that child, and the party remaining behind, sufficient parenting time during the year so as to maintain the parent child relationship
Our Detroit divorce attorneys have worked on both sides of this issue. Every case is unique. Every set of facts is analyzed differently under the legal criteria to be considered. Please feel free to contact our Plymouth, MI family law office today.