Parents petition the Court to move their child out of state, often referred to as a change of domicile, for a number of reasons. Most often, a remarriage or promising job opportunity prompts the relocation. Change of domicile requests are some of the most difficult family law issues for a judge to determine, as they often result in a drastic parenting time change for one party and the children. The experienced family law attorneys at McGinnis Chiappelli, P.C. have been successful in both achieving and obstructing change of domicile cases.

Step 1

Court must determine whether the moving parent has established that the so-called “D'Onofrio factors,” also found in MCL 722.31(4), support the parent's motion for a change of domicile. The factors are:

  1. Whether the legal residence change has the capacity to improve the quality of life for both the child and the relocating parent.
  2. The degree to which each parent has complied with, and utilized his or her time under, a court order that governs parenting time with the child, and whether the parent's plan to change the child's legal residence is inspired by that parent's desire to defeat or frustrate the parenting time schedule.
  3. The degree to which the court is satisfied that if the court permits the legal residence change, it is possible to order a modification of the parenting time schedule and other arrangements governing the child's schedule in a manner that can provide an adequate basis for preserving and fostering the parental relationship between the child and each parent; and whether each parent is likely to comply with the modification.
  4. The extent to which the parent opposing the legal residence change is motivated by a desire to secure a financial advantage with respect to a support obligation.
  5. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
Step 2

If the factors support a change in domicile, then the trial court must determine whether an established custodial environment exists. A custodial environment is established “if over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort.” An established custodial environment “is one of significant duration in which a parent provides care, discipline, love, guidance, and attention that is appropriate to the age and individual needs of the child.” There can be an established custodial environment with one, both or neither parent. The custody arrangement or parenting time schedule does not necessarily determine whether there is an established custodial environment.

Step 3

If an established custodial environment exists, the Court must then determine whether the change of domicile would modify or alter that established custodial environment. The Court views this question from the child's standpoint.

Step 4

If, and only if, the Court finds that a change of domicile would modify or alter the child's established custodial environment the trial court must determine whether the change in domicile would be in the child's best interests by considering whether the best interest factors in MCL 722.23 have been established by clear and convincing evidence. The best interest factors are:

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  2. The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  3. The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  6. The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
  10. The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child's other parent. MCL § 722.23
  11. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  12. Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

Best Lawyer. Period.

“I hired Lise at a time when I felt hopeless and overwhelmed by a very confusing legal system. It was the best decision I could have made! Lise is an amazing attorney. She took an overwhelming situation and turned it into a major win for me. She walked me through the process and was right there every step of the way to explain everything. She always let me know what my options were. I never had any trouble getting in touch with her during the entire process, both by phone or email. Having no legal experience, I was so lucky to find Lise to help me navigate this system. I will forever be grateful for Lise and the help she provided.”



“When you receive a letter in the mail from your ex's attorney, your world comes to a screeching halt! Your mind is working overtime as you try to make sense of the legal jargon before you. I could ill afford the money to fight the motion, but as it was my children's future with me that was at stake, I had no choice but to hire an attorney. Lise Spresser took my case and she immediately put me at ease and explained what was going to happen. My ex wanted to change the parenting schedule and her attorney  used dirty tricks to make their case. On my own I would have drowned in the experience, but with Lise at my side, with her experience and knowledge, she very quickly got my ex's attorney to back down and dismiss his own motion. The parenting schedule set down in the Judgment remained unchanged. I'd like to thank Lise for her courteous and professional manner as she guided me through my little version of hell. I hope I don't need her services again but I would not hesitate to pick up the phone and call her if I did.”


The process to change domicile can be very complex. We would encourage you to contact us to discuss your specific case. The INITIAL CONSULTATION IS FREE. We offer flexible appointment times, along with reasonable fees.