If you are a divorced, custodial parent in Michigan and you intend to move out of state or move more than 100 miles from your current legal residence, in most cases, you must have the custody order modified. You’ll need the advice and services of a metro Detroit child custody attorney.

You may now have joint custody or sole custody of your child or children based on the child custody order that was issued by the court when you divorced.

Your family law attorney may have arranged a “settlement” of your child custody dispute, or a Michigan judge may have handed down a “final” child custody order, but over time, changing life circumstances may require a change in the court-ordered child custody arrangement.

What is Required to Modify a Child Custody Order?

Divorced and divorcing parents should know that a child custody dispute may not truly be “final” when the divorce is finalized. Michigan allows for child custody-related court orders to be modified – at any time after a divorce is finalized – in a number of situations.

It is quite common for a divorced parent to remarry or for a parent to take a new job that makes a relocation – and a modification of the child custody order – necessary. When this happens, to modify the custody order – or to oppose its modification – you will need an attorney’s help.

What is required to modify a child custody order in Michigan? What will the court consider before granting or denying a petition for modification? Every parent in Michigan needs the answers to these questions.

If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers, and you will also learn more about your rights as a custodial or non-custodial parent in this state.

What Is the Relocation Rule for Parents With Custody Orders?

In Michigan, a parent with custody that’s subject to a court order may not, without permission from the court, move the minor child’s legal residence outside of the state or more than 100 miles from the child’s legal residence at the time the order was issued.

If the non-custodial parent agrees to the relocation, it will probably be granted by the court. If the non-custodial parent does not consent, a hearing will be ordered, and a contentious courtroom battle over the change of domicile request is a real possibility.

Either way, the custodial parent must have a Michigan child custody attorney file a motion on his or her behalf for the change of domicile. This requirement, however, applies only to parents with joint legal custody, the most common child custody arrangement in Michigan.

What If You Are a Parent With Sole Legal Custody?

Joint legal custody gives both parents the right to participate in decisions regarding a child’s welfare. Physical custody goes to one parent (the “custodial” parent) and the other (“non-custodial”) parent usually has a visitation schedule and a child support obligation.

Sole legal custody is rare in Michigan because, in most cases, the courts believe it is in a child’s best interests to have an ongoing relationship with both parents. However, parents with the sole legal custody of their child or children may relocate without the other parent’s consent.

A petition for change of domicile also may not be required if you and the other parent were already residing more than 100 miles apart or in different states when the current child custody order was originally issued.

Every situation is unique, so before you relocate anywhere as a custodial parent, it’s a good idea to check with a Michigan family law attorney to determine if your relocation will require you to file a change of domicile petition with the court.

When You Seek a Change of Domicile, What Does the Court Consider?

When matters involving children come before Michigan courts, a court will rule in what it believes is a child’s best interests. When your metro Detroit child custody lawyer petitions the court for a change of domicile, here is what the court will consider before ruling on your petition:

  1. Will the change of domicile potentially improve the quality of life for not only the child or children but also for the parent?
  2. Have both parents remained actively involved with the child or children? Have both parents been fully compliant with the current child custody court order and visitation schedule?
  3. Is the request to modify the custody order being made primarily to frustrate the other parent’s efforts to maintain an active relationship with the child or children? Or is it being made to gain some type of advantage regarding child support?
  4. Will a change of domicile allow both parents to remain actively involved with the child or children? Will it work to preserve and foster the relationship between the child or children and each parent? Will regular visitations remain possible?
  5. Is domestic violence in any way a part of the reason why a change of domicile is being requested?

Since 2001, Michigan courts are required by state law to consider these questions whenever a change of domicile is sought.

What Steps Should Relocating Parents Take?

Nevertheless, different Michigan courts ask these questions and apply these considerations in different ways, so it may be impossible to predict in advance whether a particular change of domicile petition will be granted or denied by a particular court.

Most family law attorneys recommend that the parents should first attempt to reach a compromise on their own before anyone takes a dispute to court. Compromising on these types of issues can save parents a great deal of time, money, and aggravation.

If you need to relocate, have your attorney file a change of domicile motion and be ready to tell the court why granting your motion will be in the child’s or children’s best interests. Have details about the new residence and the quality of the nearby schools, parks, and cultural activities.

When Should You Contact a Family Law Attorney?

Parents who wish to move out of state or more than 100 miles should consult a lawyer long before the projected relocation date. A change of domicile request takes careful preparation. A hearing is usually required, and a final ruling from the court may take several months.

Remarriages, new jobs, and relocations happen every day. Petitions for a change of domicile are routinely handled by Michigan’s courts, but a relocating parent will need to have a metro Detroit child custody attorney submit the request and explain to the court why it should be granted.

Do not hesitate to seek an attorney’s help as soon as a relocation becomes necessary. Nothing is more important than your child’s well-being and best interests. Let a good Michigan attorney help.