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Steps for Changing Residence or Domicile in a Michigan Child Custody Case

Moving to a new home with your child could get you in hot water with the court if the child is the subject of a child custody court order in Michigan. State law says parents sharing joint legal custody can’t move out of state (i.e. change domicile) or move more than 100 miles from where the child’s legal residence was at the time of the commencement of the case that led to the custody order — unless they have the permission of the court who issued the order, the new residence is closer to the other parent, or they are escaping a threat of domestic violence.

While you may have a very good reason for moving out of state or to a new home more than 100 miles away, such as moving to get a better paying job, failing to follow proper procedure by getting court approval could result in penalties from the court, including fines or jail time. There are essentially two ways to get court approval:

  1. Get the other parent to agree to the move, which usually results in court approval — but not always; or
  2. File a motion with the court and demonstrate that the move benefits you and the child and will justify modifications to the parenting plan.

Remember that you must have a court order allowing the move BEFORE you move. Attempting to gain court approval after moving could jeopardize your plans even though your reason for moving is legitimate and would have been approved by the court had you sought that approval before moving. Also, if you’re moving to a location less than 100 miles from the child’s domicile at the time of the court order granting custody, you do not need to seek the approval of the court or of the other parent.

Change of Domicile or Residence Requires a Real Reason for Moving that has Clear Benefits for the Child and Custodial Parent

In most cases, the court will not allow a change of domicile or a change of residence outside of the 100 mile radius if it doesn’t clearly improve quality of life for the child and for the custodial parent. Nor will the court approve a move if it isn’t obvious that there’s a reason for moving. For example, if the parent is unemployed and offered a job in a city 200 miles away and no comparable job can be found in the current location, the move may be approved. But if the parent wants to move in order to look for a job in the new location, maybe because they heard more jobs are available there, the request for approval is not likely to be granted based on that reasoning, alone. A situation like inheriting a house that is larger than the parent’s current house in a significantly better neighborhood and no mortgage to pay could also be considered a valid reason for moving because the move would significantly improve quality of life for the child and the custodial parent.

Overall, there are five components courts look at when considering a change in domicile or a change in residence outside of the 100 mile radius.  It’s best to know how you will address each issue before petitioning the court:

  1. Will the move improve quality of life for the child AND the relocating parent?
  2. How well has each parent complied with the parenting plan and utilized their time with the child, and is the move inspired by a desire to defeat or frustrate the parenting schedule?
  3. Is it possible to modify the parenting plan to preserve the child’s relationship with each parent and make up for parenting time lost due to increased distance between the parents, and how likely is each parent to comply with the modification?
  4. To what extent is the non-moving parent objecting to the move based on a desire to avoid having to pay additional child support?
  5. Is domestic violence involved in the relocating parent’s move?

Also, it is important to note that the proposed move may cause a significant enough disruption to the current parenting time arrangement that the court will consider it to be a change to the established custodial environment (if one exists).  In this instance, beyond addressing the issues listed above, the party seeking the move will also have to show by clear and convincing evidence that the move is in the best interests of the child, according to the statutory “best interest factors.”

Talk to Your Attorney When Considering a Change in Residence or Domicile

Whether you are a parent considering a move to a location that requires court approval or a parent trying to keep your child within a reasonable visitation distance, always consult with your family law attorney before taking the matter to court. Your attorney can help you understand how the court will view the circumstance and help you support your case in court.

With 34 years of experience, Michigan family law and divorce attorney Carlo J. Martina and his team can answer your questions about changes of residence or domicile and other child custody matters. Mr. Martina’s firm can also represent you in change of residence or domicile proceedings to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Call Michigan divorce lawyer Carlo J. Martina today at (734) 254-1140 to schedule a consultation.


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