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Frequent moves by military family sufficient to trigger revisiting custody

The court held that the trial court erred by denying the defendant-father's motion to revisit custody. The parties were awarded joint legal custody of the children, and the plaintiff-mother was awarded primary physical custody. Approximately four years later, after plaintiff had moved with the children several times due to her new husband's military status, defendant requested that he be given primary physical custody of the children. The trial court denied his motion, finding an insufficient basis for revisiting custody. On appeal, defendant argued that plaintiff's move from Kentucky to Alabama without court approval alone constituted changed circumstances. Plaintiff claimed that because she received permission for the move to Kentucky, she was not required to seek permission for every subsequent move. However, "the statute does not state that subsequent moves, in the absence of an agreement by the parties, do not require court approval, and plaintiff provides no caselaw on this point." It found that various definitions taken together "suggest that 'action' encompasses the entirety of the divorce proceedings" and, thus, the parties "filed motions in the underlying action and did not institute new actions by filing the motions. MCL 722.31 applied in this case because plaintiff moved from Kentucky to Alabama, which was more than 100 miles from where the children lived at the time of the commencement of the divorce action. Moreover, the exemptions in MCL 722.31(3) did not apply to the move because Alabama is farther from Michigan than Kentucky and because, at the time of the commencement of the divorce action in which the custody order was issued, the children's residences were not more than 100 miles apart. Under the precedent of Sehlke, in combination with the frequent moves in general (including a planned upcoming move to Louisiana), there was a change in circumstances sufficient to trigger a revisiting of the custody matter." Reversed and remanded.


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