January 9, 2018

Can you and your child move to another state?

If you are a divorced Michigan parent whose company is planning to transfer you to another state, you may be nervous or even apprehensive about how your former spouse is going to react to your proposed relocation. Nevertheless, any time you want or need to move 100 or more miles from your present residence, whether or not it is to another state, the first thing you should do is advise your child’s other parent of your plans. If your former spouse refuses to give his or her consent, you will need to go to court and have a custody hearing to obtain a judge’s permission to move.

Michigan courts highly value parent-child relationships and the judge will require you to show good cause why he or she should interfere with your present custodial environment, thereby depriving your child’s other parent of his or her custodial and/or visitation rights. Consequently, your existing custodial arrangement will be of prime importance.

Sole custody

If you have sole physical custody of your child and your former spouse has traditional visitation; i.e., parenting time on alternate weekends, your proposed relocation likely will not disturb this arrangement. The judge therefore will apply what is called the D’Onofrio test, considering the following four factors:

  1. Will your relocation give both you and your child an improved quality of life?
  2. Will it unduly restrict the amount of time your child will have with his or her other parent?
  3. Do you have a good reason and motivation to relocate?
  4. Does your former spouse have good reason and motivation to oppose your relocation?

Shared custody

If you and your former spouse have joint physical custody of your child, getting judicial permission to relocate can be more difficult. Here the judge will look at your child’s relationship with each parent for the past six months.

If he or she determines that your child has established a custodial environment not only with you but also with your former spouse, he or she must then consider the best interests of your child as well as answer the four D’Onofrio questions.

This means that you will need to prove that your relocation is in your child’s best interest, not just yours. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.