When a Divorced Parent Wants to Move Out-of-State
One of the most difficult situations in divorce is when one parent plans to move out-of-state with the children. Without a family court judge’s approval, a change of domicile is disallowed.
Family courts frequently struggle with change of domicile motions. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently published a case that highlights some of the questionable parental decisions that follow in the wake of divorce.
In Yachcik v Yachcik, seven years after her divorce, mother fell in love with and married a man who worked and lived in Pennsylvania. So she requested leave from the Alpena County Family Court to take her son with her to her new husband’s out-of-state home.
Under the child custody act, a parent cannot move the minor children’s residence out-of-state, or more than 100-miles, without permission of the family court.
Mother’s motion offered the child’s father parenting time consisting of 10-weeks in the summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and most of the child’s other school-related holidays. At the hearing on Mother’s motion, the usual “better life” proofs were offered to the lower court.
Mother and her witnesses testified that she had a job at a Cadillac dealership waiting for her in Pennsylvania; her son was admitted to the local private Catholic high school; mother would have more resources to allocate to her son due to the savings realized by not having to maintain two separate households, not to mention the elimination of frequent travel.
Unpersuaded, the court denied the motion, but offered mother the same parenting schedule she proposed for father if she elected to move to Pennsylvania without her son. During the hearing, Mother indicated to the lower court that she was moving regardless of the court’s ruling on her motion.
Change of Domicile Factors
Just as in a change of custody hearing, a family court considers a domicile change request pursuant to a series of statutory factors:
- whether the relocation will improve the quality of life for both child and parent;
- the degree to which each parent exercises their time under a parenting schedule and the degree to which the relocating parent is moving to thwart the other’s parenting time;
- if the move is permitted, the degree to which the parenting schedule can be modified to preserve and foster a relationship between the child and each parent; and
- the degree to which the non-relocating parent is motivated by a desire to minimize his or her child support obligation.
Applying these factors, the family court judge found that while it was clear mother’s life would be improved by the move, her son’s case was less clear. Of significance to the court, the boy had no family or friends in Pennsylvania except his mother. Meanwhile, he had many family members and friends in Alpena.
Court of Appeals Upholds Family Court
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling denying mother’s request to change the domicile of the child. This mother painted herself into a proverbial corner; she took care of her own needs first by re-marrying someone that lived out-of-state.
Family courts must maintain the best interests of the child as it primary focus.
We Can Help
If you or a family member are facing a change of domicile motion, schedule a free consultation with our law firm to assess your options.