Change of Domicile of Minor Children

Change of Domicile cases are occurring more frequently.  According to the Child Custody Act, when parents have joint legal custody, one parent cannot move the child’s legal residence (domicile) more than 100 miles, or out of the state of Michigan, unless it is obtained with the Court’s prior approval.  When one parent requests to move the child’s domicile, there is a four-step approach to determine whether the move should be permitted.

First, the Court will determine if the party requesting the move can show the change of domicile is warranted under the 5 domicile factors.

Second, if the factors support a change of domicile, then the Court must determine if an established custodial environment exists.  An established custodial environment is established if over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. The age of the child, the physical environment, and the parent and child's feelings of permanency about their relationship.

Third, if the Court determines that an established custodial environment exists, then the Court must decide whether the change of domicile would modify or alter that established custodial environment.

Fourth, if the Court finds that the change of domicile will modify or alter the child’s established custodial environment, the Trial Court must determine whether the change in domicile would be in the child’s best interests.
          
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