Once a Michigan divorce has been finalized (or even sometimes before), it is quite common for one or both ex-spouses to want to make a “fresh start” somewhere else. Sometimes the ex-spouse has already received an offer of a job in another part of the state; other times (perhaps) one ex-spouse has already found a new romantic partner but this person lives in another state entirely. For these or other reasons, one or both ex-spouses may want to relocate.
When one spouse or the other wishes to relocate and the couple does not have any children in common, the process is relatively straightforward: the person gives appropriate notice to the court and/or his or her attorney and accomplishes the relocation. However, if the divorced couple has one or more kids and they share custody, then the process of relocation is not as simple. The same is true if the couple is not married but has a child custody order or proceeding.
Any time the parent with primary residential custody of the child intends to move out of the state of Michigan, he or she must either obtain consent (preferably written consent) from the other parent and approval from the court or seek the court’s approval and order allowing the move (MCL 722.31).
If one parent has sole custody of the child, he or she must still notify the court before relocating outside Michigan (MCR 3.211). You will likely need to provide a suitable reason for the move and demonstrate how the child’s quality of life will improve.
If you are moving to another location within Michigan, then the first question that must be answered is whether you and your partner lived 100 miles or more apart from one another at the time the custody proceedings began. If so, you both are free to move anywhere within the State so long as you keep the other party and the court notified of your whereabouts. (However, if a move interferes substantially with visitation orders, the other party can ask the court to enter alternate visitation orders and/or require you to move closer). You are also free to move anywhere you want within the state without permission from the other party or the court if you have sole legal custody.
If you and the other spouse lived within 100 miles of each other at the commencement of proceedings, either of you must obtain consent from the other or approval of the court if either of you intends to move to a location that is a greater driving distance than 100 miles from the nonmoving party (not a 100 mile radius). Obviously, you do not need consent or the court’s permission if your intended move will not be greater than 100 miles from the other party’s residence.
When a court is called upon to determine whether to approve a move for reasons of employment or marriage, the court is primarily concerned with the impact of the move on the child, not on either parent. If the job will allow the parent to provide better for the child or the marriage is to a person that the child has bonded with, the court may be more inclined to grant permission to relocate. However, even if the court finds the new job or partner would provide benefits to the child, the court may still disapprove of the move if it would negatively impact the quality of the child’s relationship with the other parent.
At Van Den Heuvel Law Office, we can assist you in navigating the sometimes-confusing law surrounding parental moves and relocations. When a move is contested by the other party, we can help you gather the evidence and witnesses you need to support your requested move. Contact us for assistance at (616) 698-0000 or complete our online form today.
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