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Relocation and Child Custody Can Be Challenging

Moving and relocating is tremendously stressful, but often necessary as a result of a promotion or change in career paths. If you share custody with a former spouse or partner and hope to relocate with your child, brace yourself for a challenging legal battle unless you can convince the other parent to agree. In Michigan, the legal standards required for a parent to move with a child who shares custody with both parents is daunting, but not impossible to overcome. 

The Court of Appeals in Rains v Rains, 301 Mich App 313; 836 NW2d 709 (2013) set forth a four-step procedure for courts to follow when deciding a motion to change legal residence. First, the court must determine whether the moving party has established by a preponderance of the evidence (the claim is more likely than not) that the factors in MCL 722.31(4) support a change in domicile. Second, if the factors support a change in domicile, the court must determine whether an established custodial environment exists. Such an environment exists with the child when a parent provides guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, love and attention over an extended period of time. Both parents may have an established custodial environment; just because the child is living with one parent does not mean the other parent does not have an established custodial environment. Third, if an established custodial environment exists, the court must determine whether the change of domicile would alter the established custodial environment. Fourth, finally, if the change of domicile would alter the established custodial environment, the moving party must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the change in domicile is in the child’s best interest.

Consulting with a divorce and family lawyer experienced in litigating child custody matters is imperative to assure you are prepared for the legal process. 

© 2019 Varnum LLP


About this Author

Erika L. Salerno, Kalamazoo, MI, Family Law attorney, Varnum

Erika handles family law litigation matters including complex divorces, initial and post judgment child custody matters, change of domicile, paternity, minor guardianship and third-party custody cases involving multistate jurisdictional issues across southwest Michigan. As a domestic relations mediator, she is frequently retained by other lawyers to mediate their most challenging cases. Trained in Collaborative Law, Erika has worked with clients using the Collaborative Law Process since she was trained in 2000.

In addition to her family law...

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