Michigan Child Custody: Can a Custodial Parent Move Away with the Child?
In today’s challenging economy, it is sometimes necessary for a parent to move. A mother or father may need to move to a distant city or state in order to find employment. In other cases, a single parent may wish to move closer to family members who can offer financial assistance or help with child care.
But a move of any distance can seriously impact parenting time and the other parent’s ability to have a relationship with their child or children. For this reason, Courts typically take the issue of a parent moving far away very seriously.
As an experienced divorce, child custody & parenting time attorney, I am frequently asked by my clients if they are allowed to move with the minor child(ren) far away from the other parent. The answer to this is never simple, but there are a specific factors the Court will take into consideration when making this determination.
Considerations in Changing a Child’s Domicile
To begin with, if the other parent agrees to allow the custodial or joint parent to move, it is certainly allowed. But this is often not the case. Similarly, a move is allowable in rare cases where a parents actually anticipated this scenario and included permission to move in a Divorce Decree or Custody Order. But again, this is very rare. So, when the parties cannot agree on a move the Judge must make the determination.
Under the Michigan Child Custody Act, a parent having sole or joint custody cannot move a minor children’s residence out-of-state, or more than 100-miles, without permission of the Court.
Most Michigan Divorce Judgments or Child Custody Orders also include:
a condition saying that a custodial parent, or a parent sharing joint legal custody cannot move more than 100 miles from where he or she lived when the case was started, unless a Court signs an order allowing the move; and,
a provision stating that a party may not change the state in which the child resides (called the “domicile”), to another state without first obtaining the Judge’s permission.
If the custodial parent wishes to move a minor child out of state or more than 100 miles, the moving parent’s attorney must file a Motion with the court, and then an evidentiary Hearing will be held in front of the Judge.
How Judges Decide if a Parent Can Move a Child
When a Judge originally determines custody, he or she focuses only on the best interests of the child. However, In deciding if a child can be moved more than 100 miles or out of state, the Judge will actually focus on the interests of child, as well as those of the moving parent.
A Judge generally considers five main areas when determining if a parent will be allowed to move away with a child.
(1.) Will the move improve the quality of life for both the parent and the child?
The Judge may look at factors such as the schools, extracurricular advantages, employment opportunities, proximity of family, etc.
(2.) Has the current parenting time schedule has been followed by the parents?
If the moving parent has not complied with the parenting time schedule, it may appears that the move is an effort to keep the other parent from seeing the child. This would weigh against allowing the move. Conversely, if the non-moving parent has not fulfilled their parenting time obligations to see the child, the Judge may be more favorable to the move.
(3.) Is the nonmoving parent trying to resist the move simply to secure a financial advantage, by paying less child support?
If the Judge determines that the non-moving parent is financially motivated by opposing the move, this will weigh in favor of the moving parent.
(4.) Will the nonmoving parent have a realistic opportunity to visit the child, and maintain a similar relationship to the one they enjoy currently?
Factors such as the feasibility of the child to still visit the nonmoving parent (based on age, cost, etc.) will be taken into consideration
(5.) Is there a history of domestic violence?
When there has been a history of domestic violence, the Judge may be more favorable to allowing an abused parent to move away with the child.
Oakland County Child Custody Attorneys
Moving a child far away from a parent is difficult for both the child and the parent – and should always be approached with great caution and concern for the wellbeing of the child. And, even if permission to move is granted, there is still work to be done to re-negotiate (or litigate) the necessary changes in the parenting time arrangements – as well as issues such as who will pay for the child’s travel, and how the child will be allowed to communicate with the non-moving parent (Phone, Skype, FaceTime, etc.).
If you have sole or joint custody and you wish to move – or your child’s joint or custodial parent has proposed that they will be moving – it is important to meet with an experienced attorney. As an experienced child custody attorney, I have helped hundreds of clients obtain the decisions in parental moving cases that are best for their children and themselves.