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Responding to a Motion to Change Domicile

Contents

    There are many reasons your child’s other parent may want to move. These could include for a better job, a safer neighborhood, or to be closer to friends and family.  However, the move could make parenting time arrangements difficult. If your child’s other parent has asked the judge for permission to move, you may be worried about how this change will affect the time you spend with your child. You may be wondering what you can do to oppose the move or ask for a different parenting time schedule.

    In many cases the other parent needs the judge’s permission to move. If so, you also have the chance to oppose the move.

    The other parent needs the judge’s approval to move if:

    • The other parent is moving more than 100 miles from his or her current home, even within Michigan, and you have joint legal custody; or
    • The other parent is moving out of state, no matter what kind of custody you have.

    Moving Within Michigan

    The 100-Mile Rule

    The 100-mile rule may help you if you oppose the other parent’s move. It requires the other parent to get the judge’s permission to move the child more than 100 miles from where you lived when your family law case started.

    The “100-mile rule” applies to your case unless one of four exceptions exists (see below). The 100-mile rule works both ways. You would also need the judge’s permission to move your child, even if your child spends most of his or her time with the other parent.

    The 100-mile rule applies UNLESS:

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

    How the Judge Decides Whether to Allow the Move

    After the other parent files a motion to change your child’s residence, there will be a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will consider whether:

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

    The Best Interests of the Child

    The judge may also consider the best interests of the child factors before deciding whether to allow the other parent to move with the child. 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 you agree to the other parent’s move.

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

    How the Judge Decides Whether to Allow the Move

    The other parent must file a motion to ask for the judge’s permission to move your child out of Michigan. You have the opportunity to respond to the motion. What the judge does next will depend on the custody order in your case:

    • If the other parent has sole legal custody, the judge must grant the 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 allow the move. The factors apply even if the proposed move is 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 the other parent’s move, the judge must then look at whether the move would affect custody. If the 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 change 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 the other parent needs more evidence that the new parenting time arrangements would 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 Object to the Other Parent’s Request to Move?

    File a response to the other parent’s motion to tell the judge you oppose the move. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Response to Motion to Change Domicile/Residence to do this. Or, you can print the response to motion form and fill it in by hand.

    The judge will schedule a hearing where the other parent can talk about why he or she wants to move. You will get to talk about why you oppose the move.

    The other parent is supposed to follow the current parenting time schedule unless the judge changes it. The proposed move might make the current parenting time schedule difficult or impossible to follow. If the other parent violates the existing parenting time schedule, you can ask the judge to change the arrangements and/or make-up the missed time.

    Conclusion

    In many situations, a parent needs the judge’s permission to move after separation or divorce. If your child’s other parent wants to move and you oppose the move, you may have the opportunity to ask the judge not to allow it.  Your child’s relationship with both parents is important, and the judge will take this decision very seriously.

    Sometimes the other parent doesn’t need the judge’s permission to move. This is true if:

    • He or she has sole legal custody and is moving within Michigan;
    • The proposed move is within Michigan and less than 100 miles away; or
    • The move is within Michigan and you agree to the move.

    If your child’s other parent is asking the judge to move and you oppose it, 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.