Change of Domicile (Moving Out of State)

With so many people moving out of the state of Michigan today, we are frequently contacted by parents who want to know the custody laws about moving out of the state of Michigan with their child or children.

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.

When deciding child custody arrangements, courts look seriously at any parental request to move children more than 100 “road traveled” miles away from the other parent. Change of Domicile requests can be some of the toughest legal battles during or after divorce. Courts use the reasoning that unless there are negative parenting factors, the children are best off with regular and consistent contact with both parents. It’s argued that driving more than 100 miles for visitation would cut off the other parent’s ability to participate in the children’s lives. That’s why the 100 mile rule is such an important child custody topic.

A parent wishing to move more than 100 miles should consult with an attorney long before the anticipated date of the move, as such matters require careful preparation and planning. Additionally, such cases will typically require a hearing and can often take months before receiving a ruling from the Court. Michigan law requires a Court to reach a determination on certain factors, which are:

  1. Whether the legal residence change has the capacity to improve the quality of life for both the child and the relocating parent;
  2. The degree to which each parent has complied with and utilized his or her time under a court order governing parenting time with the child and whether the parent’s plan to change the child’s legal residence is inspired by that parent’s desire to defeat or frustrate the parenting time schedule;
  3. The degree to which the court is satisfied that, if the court permits the legal residence change, it is possible to order a modification of the parenting time schedule and other arrangements governing the child’s schedule in a manner that can provide an adequate basis for preserving and fostering the parental relationship between the child and each parent; and whether each parent is likely to comply with the modification;
  4. The extent to which the parent opposing the legal residence change is motivated by a desire to secure a financial advantage with respect to a support obligation; and
  5. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.




Parenting time with your kids when you live out of state is a difficult issue and every case is unique.

If you live in Northern Ohio, your visitation may be very similar to a “reasonable and liberal” parenting time schedule of every other weekend, half the school holidays and two or three weeks in the summer.

If you live in Arizona, your parenting time may be most of the summer and half the school holidays, while the parent remaining in Michigan has the school year.

Depending on where you live, your parenting time could be anywhere in between those two examples.

When discussing the parenting time with the parent remaining in Michigan or the parent moving out of state, be as specific as possible with respect to the parenting time so that the order can be enforced.  A general order, with no specifics (which weekend, which weeks in the summer, etc.) are difficult for the courts and local law enforcement to enforce.


Transportation Logistics and Transportation Costs

The actual parenting time and the transportation costs for the visitation are all questions that have no specific bright line rule in the courts.  So, if you cannot agree with the other parent on the parenting time or the transportation issues, it will be up to the judge assigned to your case to make a decision.

Depending on the circumstances involved, the court will make a determination if the motion will be granted. Should you need to request a custody order modification due to a new job offer, remarriage, or another valid reason, be sure to speak with an experienced attorney at Kizy Law about all of your concerns. Like contested divorces, change of domicile motions are often negotiated to a settlement short of an Evidentiary hearing. A change of domicile motion is a highly emotional matter for both the moving and non-moving parent. An Evidentiary hearing, if actually held, will raise emotions to an even higher level. A good family law judge will attempt to use significant pressure and persuasion to get the parents to reach a negotiated settlement short of an Evidentiary hearing. In some instances, a family law judge may order the parties to participate in non-binding mediation prior to an Evidentiary hearing. There’s always a chance that something beneficial can be agreed upon prior to pursuing litigation.