In this custody dispute, defendant-father files motion to change the two minor children’s domicile from Michigan to Indiana.
In September 2015, a judgment of divorce was entered granting the parties joint legal and physical custody of the two minor children. The parties received equal parenting time. In March 2018, defendant filed a motion to change the children’s domicile from Jackson, Michigan to Mishawaka, Indiana, a town approximately 140 miles away. Defendant had been accepted to Notre Dame Law School and planned to move to that area by September 2018. Defendant also sought sole legal custody of the children.
At the April 2018 evidentiary hearing, defendant proposed a parenting time schedule whereby the children would live primarily with him and plaintiff would have the children on weekends, most school breaks, and throughout the week in the summer. This proposal would have reduced plaintiff’s parenting time by 26 overnights and resulted in a “43/57” split. Plaintiff opposed defendant’s motion for change of domicile and requested that his proposed schedule be “flip flopped” when defendant moved to Indiana.
In August 2018, the trial court issued a written order and opinion denying defendant’s motion.
The trial court analyzed the factors enumerated in MCL 722.31(4), also known as the D’Onofrio factors, to determine whether defendant’s motion for a change of domicile was warranted. The court recognized that the proposed move had the capacity to improve the quality of life for defendant and the children, including a better school district and the prospect of new opportunities. However, the trial court concluded that the children had an established custodial environment with both parents that would be significantly altered by the move.
First, a trial court must determine whether the moving party has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the factors enumerated in MCL 722.31(4), the so-called D’Onofrio factors, support a motion for a change of domicile.
Second, if the factors support a change in domicile, then the trial court must then determine whether an established custodial environment exists.
Third, if an established custodial environment exists, the trial court must then determine whether the change of domicile would modify or alter that established custodial environment.
Finally, if, and only if, the trial court finds that a change of domicile would modify or alter the child’s established custodial environment must the trial court 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.
It is important to remember that decrees regarding child custody are not always final.
Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped countless family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, receive modifications that more fairly meet their needs.
Contact us at our law firm in Plymouth. We can help you determine your chances of receiving a modification.