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Change in residence request granted where move would provide mother with higher earning potential and therefore improve child's quality of life

The court held that the trial court did not err in determining that the factor listed in MCL 722.31(4)(a) supported its grant of defendant-mother's motion. As to MCL 722.31(4)(c), it held that the trial court's factual findings did not "clearly preponderate in the other direction" and so it deferred to them. Thus, it affirmed the trial court's order granting the defendant's motion for a change of residence. The parties have joint legal custody of their child and the defendant has primary physical custody. Before the events that gave rise to this appeal, the plaintiff-father had parenting time with the child every "Wednesday and every other weekend during the school year, every other week during the summer, and alternating holidays. Defendant admitted that plaintiff had regularly exercised his parenting time." She sought to move with the child to Wyoming, where her parents live. She plans to live with them and attend the college two hours away, to obtain a master's degree as a nurse practitioner. She testified that she had yet not submitted an application because she first needs to establish her residency there. On appeal both parties agreed that the only factors at issue were MCL 722.31(4)(a) and (c). The trial court found that the move would allow defendant to become a nurse practitioner, which would increase her income. Plaintiff argued that the trial court's reasoning was erroneous because it focused on the potential improvement in defendant's life, not the child's. "However, '[i]t is well established that the relocating parent's increased earning potential may improve a child's quality of life . . . .'" He also argued that "the potential improvement was too speculative to warrant granting the motion." While he relied on Peck, the court found the circumstances in Peck to be distinguishable from those here. The trial court found that if defendant moved to Colorado, she would be relieved of daycare expenses. The child did not have any special needs that were presented to the trial court. Further, "the travel schedule for the child will not be monthly, and consequently presumably not as strenuous as the schedule in Peck." Also, while plaintiff saw the child frequently, he admitted that he was "not able to be involved with her schooling, and there was no indication that he handled day-to-day matters such as doctor appointments. The trial court reasonably concluded that the proposed schedule would preserve and foster the parental relationship between the child and plaintiff." Although he would not see her weekly, "his parenting time actually would increase under the proposed schedule." He also will be able to Skype with the child for 30 minutes twice a week, "which will maintain frequency of contact, albeit not in person."


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