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Long Distance Moves with a Child after Judgment

After a divorce, custody, or paternity case, will a Court allow a parent to move the minor child far away from the other parent?  The answer to this question is never simple. But in our increasingly mobile world it is sometimes necessary for one parent to move. A parent may have a new job or may want to move closer to family in another state where they can get support raising the child. A move like this usually means that parenting time and the custodial environment of the child will significantly change, and this can cause a problem.  Because of this, courts typically take this issue very seriously.

            There are two laws that apply to long distance moves.  The first is the “100 Mile Rule.”  Most custody orders provide that a party 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.  The second provision is that a party may not change the domicile, i.e. the state in which the child resides, to another state without first obtaining the judge’s permission.

            In general, moving is easier if it is not across state lines or more than 100 miles away. Those moves will require a motion to be filed and ultimately an evidentiary hearing on whether the proposed move meets the legal requirements.

            In determining custody, the law focuses on the best interests of the child, only.   In determining if a child can be moved more than 100 miles or out of state, however, the court focuses on the interests of child and the moving parent.  The court generally focuses on five main areas when considering allowing a parent to move away with a child. First, it will assess whether the move will improve the quality of life for both the parent and the child. This could include looking at the new location’s schools, parks, and cultural activities, to name a few. Second, the court will look at whether the current parenting time schedule has been followed by the parents. In other words, if the moving parent has not followed the parenting time schedule, and it looks like the move is being considered in order keep the nonmoving parent from seeing the child, this factor would weigh against the moving parent.

            The court will also consider whether the nonmoving parent appears to be resisting in order to secure a financial advantage by not having to pay more in child support because of the move. If so, the court may weigh this factor in favor of the moving parent. The court also determines whether the nonmoving parent has a realistic opportunity to visit the child and maintain a similar relationship he or she enjoyed when the parties lived closer. Lastly, Michigan has added a fifth prong to this test that involves domestic violence. If there has been a history of domestic violence, the court will consider that when it decides if the parent should be able to move away with the child.  

            Moving a child far away from a parent is never easy.  These are some of the most difficult cases that a family court has to address post-judgment.  It is difficult to find a compromise—either the child is moving or not.  If a move looks like it may be granted, there is still work to be done to negotiate or litigate a new parenting time schedule, methods of communication between the child and the parent being “left behind,” such as Skype or FaceTime communications, and methods and costs of transporting the child for the other parent’s visitation. 

            If you have sole or joint custody of your child and wish to move, it is important to meet with an experienced attorney and understand what the law will require of you.  Likewise, if you believe your ex-wife or girlfriend intends to move with your child, it is crucial to obtain counsel and develop a strategy to oppose the move.

About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men and practices a policy of integrity in all dealings.