Our Family Law office receives many questions from divorced parents regarding moving with their child. Generally speaking, unless both parents agree with allowing the child to move away with either parent, some steps and rules need to be observed. Failing to do so may quite easily affect one’s parenting schedule and cause a lot of headaches for both sides. Here are some important questions and answers about moving and child custody in Michigan.

Do I Need to Notify My Ex if I’m Moving With My Child?

It is common for people to be looking forward to a new beginning after a difficult divorce battle, and that sometimes means seeking a new place to live. But when you have children and a court-determined custody arrangement, moving is not as simple as packing up and leaving. With very few exceptions, parents wishing to relocate must submit a request to the court and notify the other parent. If the other parent agrees to the move, then the child’s new address must be provided to the court.

The two main exceptions to this requirement are (1) when a parent has sole legal custody of the child and (2) there is a significant threat of domestic violence against one of the parents and/or against the child. In other words, if you have sole legal custody of your child, you do NOT need to notify or obtain authorization from the non-custodial parent before moving, you will just need to give your new address to the court. In addition, if you are under the threat of domestic violence, you can move with your child without permission and the court can keep your new address confidential. The court will still decide if your new residence is adequate for the child. If you are unsure about whether you need authorization to move with your child or not, it is best to contact a family law attorney before taking any action.

How Far Can a Parent Move With a Child in Michigan?

Michigan law allows parents sharing custody of a child to move up to 100 miles away within state borders. This is commonly referred to as the “100-mile rule”. Section 722.31 of the Child Custody Act of 1970 prescribes that “a parent of a child whose custody is governed by court order shall not change a legal residence of the child to a location that is more than 100 miles from the child’s legal residence at the time of the commencement of the action in which the order is issued.”

In other words, unless you have sole custody of the child or the other parent agrees to the move, the 100-mile distance limit applies. The court measures the distance in a radius format, and therefore will not count road miles to determine if the move is within the 100-mile rule and state limits. In other words, the 100 miles referred to in the statute is referring to radial miles, or “as the crow flies,” and it is not referring to driving distance. Out-of-state moves and moving to a location farther than 100 miles will require court authorization for parents sharing custody of a child.

What Are the Criteria a Court Will Use to Grant or Deny a Relocation Request?

When one of the parents disagrees with the move or whenever a relocation request ends up in court, the guiding principle a judge will use to grant or deny a request is the child’s best interest. Several factors will be used to determine if the move is in the child’s best interest, including but not limited to the relocating parent’s true intent behind the move (whether they are doing this deliberately to interfere with the parenting schedule, defeat custody, or parenting time orders), whether the move will positively impact the overall quality of life of the child (such as access to better education or safer neighborhoods) and of the relocating parent (allowing for a better salary or job opportunity) and whether such benefits have enough weight to justify disrupting the court-ordered parenting schedule.

In addition, the court may also consider whether either parent is guilty of domestic violence, either against or witnessed by the child. They will also analyze how compliant each parent has been to the parenting schedule, and whether the new parenting schedule will allow the child to spend the same time with each parent as the old schedule. Like many states, Michigan laws place a heavy emphasis on making arrangements that allow the child to spend time with both parents, and every relocation request will likely be analyzed based on some or all of these factors.

What Steps Do I Need to Take to Relocate With My Child?

If you wish to relocate with your child, you will need to file a motion with your local family court. The other parent will be notified and will have the opportunity to respond. The judge will then schedule a hearing in which you will explain the reasons why you are requesting to move with the child, and again the other parent can present evidence against your request. All of this needs to be done before you move, as you are expected to follow the current parenting schedule until the judge authorizes any changes.

If you expect this process to be heated or highly contested by your ex, or you are not sure about how to proceed, it may be best to seek the help of a seasoned family law attorney. At ADAM, we have assisted many clients with their relocation requests and are ready to help you, too. Contact us for a free consultation to learn your options.