Can You Move Away from Your Marital Home And Take the Kids With You?

Many recently divorced people decide to move to another city. They may want to be closer to their families or to put their pasts behind them and start fresh somewhere else. This impulse is understandable, but if you have minor children, your ability to move may be limited by Michigan law, even if you do not live with your children most of the time. In Michigan, your child is considered to have a residence with both parents, and neither residence can change more than 100 miles without permission.

While this law can be frustrating, it is based on the belief that children usually do best when they can spend time with both parents. If your child has a relationship with the other parent, we recommend that you think hard before you decide to move far away. Even if your child has not been seriously affected by the divorce itself, the loss of the opportunity to spend time with the other parent can cause emotional and behavioral problems. Sometimes, the move is still in the child's best interests, and if it is, you may be able to move despite the preference in Michigan law for staying put.

Under what circumstances must I get permission to move?

If you want to move more than 100 miles from the address where you were living when you filed for divorce, you must get permission from the other parent or from the court. If you are moving closer to the other parent, or if you lived more than 100 miles apart when you requested the custody order (normally done as part of the divorce), this rule does not apply. Note that even if one parent has primary physical custody, most divorced parents share legal custody. It is important to distinguish the two and to know what your court order provides.

If the other parent does not agree, you can ask the court for permission.

What happens if I have to go to court?

The court examines the following factors if there is joint legal custody in determining what is in the best interests of the child:

  • Whether the move will improve the quality of life of the child and the parent
  • Whether each parent has a record of compliance with parenting-time orders and whether the move is designed to frustrate the other parent's ability to spend time with the child
  • Whether the court believes that it is possible to change the parenting time schedule in such a way as to foster the relationship between the child and the other parent, and whether the relocating parent will comply with the new schedule
  • Whether the move is motivated by an attempt to gain a financial advantage related to a support obligation
  • Whether there has been a history of domestic violence between the parents

If you believe that moving is in your best interests and those of your child, consult with attorney Michael A. Robbins. Mr. Robbins has served as chairperson of the Family Law section of the Michigan Bar and is AV® Preeminent(TM) Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®.