After your Michigan divorce is finalized and child custody is established, it can be exciting but frustrating for a parent to learn that she or he has been offered a job in a new city or state. Thinking about moving to a new place can also produce a lot of anxiety with regard to your children and the status of your parenting time schedule. For most divorced parents, the idea of a big move brings about two major concerns: Am I allowed to relocate with my children under Michigan law, and if so, will my children be able to adjust to a new school and community? We want to discuss how Michigan law handles relocation issues.
What Does it Mean to Relocate in Michigan After a Divorce With Minor Children?
Let’s say that you got divorced last year, and you have been sharing parenting time with your children’s other parent. The parenting time schedule is working well, and the children seem well-adjusted to the new routine. Suddenly you learn that you are up for a big promotion that would require you to move. For the sake of the hypothetical, we want to imagine two different scenarios:
- You are offered a promotion that requires you to move to a new city that is 50 miles away; and
- You are offered a promotion that requires you to move to California while your children’s other parent plans to remain in Michigan.
In both situations, you are hoping that your children will be able to move with you and attend school in a new place. What does the law have to say about either of these proposed relocation scenarios?
Michigan Law and Relocation With Minor Children
Under the Michigan Child Custody Act (MCL 722.31), the general rule is that parents may not relocate with children or change the child’s legal residence “to a location that is more than 100 miles from the child’s legal residence at the time of the commencement of the action in which the order was issued.” In other words, a parent with child custody who shares custody with the other parent cannot relocate with a child to a place that is more than 100 miles from the child’s residence at the time of the initial custody order and parenting time schedule. Parents with sole custody do not need to obtain permission for relocation under any conditions.
For the first scenario—the prospect of taking a promotion that requires a move to a city that is 50 miles away—the statute permits this type of relocation without the parent seeking permission for relocation. However, since the statute makes clear that a child’s residence cannot change by more than 100 miles, the second scenario—a move from Michigan to California, which is much more than 100 miles way—will require that the parent seeking relocation obtain permission.
How does a parent go about obtaining permission for a relocation 100 miles or more away? The first step is seeking permission from the children’s other parent. If that parent consents to the residence change, then the relocating parent can move with the children. If the other parent does not consent, then the relocating parent needs to ask the court to agree to the relocation. A Michigan court can permit a residence change of more than 100 miles after considering certain statutory factors.