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Moving with Children After Separation or Divorce

Contents

    There are many reasons a family may want to move. You might want to move for a better job, a safer neighborhood, or to be closer to friends and family.  For most people the decision to move is a personal one. However, this may not be the case if you are separated or divorced, and you have a custody order. In this situation you may need permission from the judge to move your child’s residence.

    You need the judge’s approval to move if:

    •  You are moving more than 100 miles from where you live now, even within Michigan, and you have joint legal custody; or
    •  You are moving out of state, no matter what kind of custody you have.

    Moving Within Michigan

    The 100-Mile Rule

    The “100-mile rule” applies to your case unless one of four exceptions exists (see below). The 100-mile rule requires you to get the judge’s permission to move your child’s residence more than 100 miles from where the other parent lived when your family law case started.

    The 100-mile rule applies to both parents, even if the child spends most of the time with one parent. It applies whether the move is within or outside Michigan.

    The 100-mile rule applies UNLESS:

    • You have sole legal custody;
    • The other parent agrees to the move and you both sign a written stipulation;
    • You and the other parent were already living more than 100 miles apart when your family law case started; or
    • Your new home will be closer to the other parent’s residence than your old home.

    How the Judge Decides Whether to Allow the Move

    After you file your motion, there will be a hearing. The judge will consider whether:

    1. The move will improve your and your child’s quality of life;
    2. You are using the move to limit the other parent’s time with your child;
    3. New parenting time arrangements will allow your child to keep a similar relationship with the other parent;
    4. The other parent is fighting against the move just to pay less child support;
    5. You are moving to escape domestic violence by the other parent.

    These are often called the 100-mile rule factors. But, the judge uses the same factors to decide shorter, out of state moves if the parents have joint custody.

    Important! You must ask the judge for approval before you move your child’s residence, unless you need to move to a safe place to get away from domestic violence. If that happens, you must still get the judge’s permission, but you can do it after moving.

    The Best Interests of the Child

    The judge may also consider the best interests of the child factors before deciding whether to allow your move. Read the section below (“The Best Interests of the Child Factors”) for more about when this would happen and what it means.

    Moving Outside Michigan

    When the Domicile Rule Applies

    All Michigan custody orders must state that the child’s domicile or residence can’t be moved from Michigan without the judge’s approval. This applies if you have sole or joint custody. It applies even if the other parent agrees with the move.

    If you are moving your child out of Michigan, you are supposed to file a motion to get the judge’s approval before you move. It doesn’t matter if you are moving 25 miles away or 2,500 miles away.

    How the Judge Decides Whether to Allow the Move

    If you have sole legal custody, the judge must grant your motion. The judge doesn’t need to consider the 100-mile rule factors.

    If you have joint legal custody, there will be a hearing. At the hearing the judge will consider the five factors listed above (the 100-mile rule factors) to decide whether to grant your motion. The factors apply even if you are asking to move less than 100 miles away. The judge may also consider the best interests of the child factors before deciding whether to allow your move. Read the section directly below (“The Best Interests of the Child Factors”) for more about when this would happen and what it means.

    The Best Interests of the Child Factors

    If the judge decides the five factors favor your move, the judge must then look at whether the move would affect custody. If your move requires a big change in parenting time, the judge might decide the move would cause a change in custody. If so, the judge must decide if the move is in your child’s best interests. At a hearing, both you and your child’s other parent will have the chance to explain why the move would or wouldn’t be good for your child.

    For a best interests decision, the judge considers the best interests of the child factors. The burden of proof is higher. This means you need more evidence that the move will be good for your child. To learn more about changes in custody and the best interests factors, read the Custody and Parenting Time and The “Best Interests of the Child” Factors articles.

    How Do I Ask the Judge for Permission to Move?

    File a motion in your family law case to ask the judge to approve your move. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Domicile/Residence to do this. Or, you can print the motion form and fill it in by hand.

    The other parent will get to respond to your motion. The court will schedule a hearing where you can talk about why you want to move. The other parent will get to talk about why he or she doesn’t want you to move.

    Ask for the judge’s approval before you move. You are supposed to follow the current parenting time schedule unless the judge changes it. Your proposed move might make your current parenting time schedule difficult or impossible to follow. Moving before you have the judge’s permission may cause you to violate the parenting time schedule. You would also be violating the requirement to get permission before you move. This could get you in trouble with the judge.

    Conclusion

    Relocation after separation or divorce is not always a problem. Your move may not be difficult if:

    • You have sole legal custody;
    • Your move is within Michigan and less than 100 miles away; or
    • The other parent agrees to the move.

    Things may be more complicated if you need the judge’s permission to move. Your child’s relationship with both parents is important, and the judge will take this decision very seriously.

    If you are in this situation, consider talking to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. Whether you are low-income or not, you can use the "Find a Lawyer" section on this page to look for legal help in your area.