Factors that a judge considers in a move-away custody case
You were in a once-happy marriage and relationship that appeared to have all the right ingredients to last a lifetime, and you built a foundation for a long and fulfilling future. But somewhere along the way, for an array of potential reasons, the marriage failed and you and your spouse are going through a divorce. If children are involved, the complexity and emotional toll ramps up exponentially, bringing with it plenty of questions and concerns.
Fortunately, Michigan law always puts a child’s best interest as priority, implementing 12 specific factors in making a final decision on custody arrangement. The court will closely review the parenting dynamic prior to divorce filing to determine the existence and substance of a sound household environment. At this point, the court will determine legal and physical custody. But what if one parent chooses to move to a new location or they are part of a job transfer?
Move-away factors in child custody cases
While it often happens that one spouse or the other will decide to relocate and start fresh, parents with children can’t simply pack the car and hit the road. In fact, the parent wishing to move is required to secure court approval and sometimes also needs their ex-spouse’s permission. The overriding rule in Michigan court cases is a “parent may not change the child’s legal residence by more than 100 miles without consent of the other parent or court permission.” If the parents don’t agree on the 100-mile rule, a court petition is required prior to relocating.
To assist in this regard, Michigan law offers a collection of criteria for the parents to apply to making a decision on a household change of more than 100 miles:
- Will the potential move improve the parent’s and child’s life?
- Why does the parent wish to move? Is the reason legitimate (i.e., job) or is something else driving the decision?
- How will the visitation time schedule and child’s relationship with each parent be affected given the greater distance?
- If one parent opposes the move, is it due to financial motives regarding child support, or perhaps an act of retreat from a negative event(s) in the household?
Court approval is required
Michigan child custody awards are governed by strict court rule, requiring the child’s residence cannot be moved out of the state without court approval, the custodial parent must notify the court of the child’s new location, and a parent under court-ordered custody cannot change the child’s residence except in specific circumstances. Doing so without adhering to existing legal procedure can lead to significant penalties or criminal outcomes.
The end goal in all custody matters is the best interest of the child and a nurturing relationship with each parent. One parent wishing to move to a distant location or new state greatly impacts the child’s relationship with the other parent. However, moving is at times the only option, due to job loss or other financial burden, career change, continuing education, or a variety of similar circumstances. A judge will review a family’s situation closely to make the best possible decision.
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