A few years
ago, the Michigan Courts decided Dehring v Dehring, 220 Mich App
163 (1996). In that case, one parent moved to the other side of the
state with the child but remained in the state. If the mother had wanted
to move to Toledo, Ohio or “interstate,” she would have been required to
obtain a court order. She would have had to convince the court that her
motives for the move were to better her life and the child’s life and
that she could provide the father with meaningful parenting time. The
court would also consider whether the parties’ respective positions were
based on an intent to increase or avoid child support. Under Dehring,
no court order is required for an “intrastate” move and therefore no
consideration is given to the effects on the child and the other parent.
Mom can just move even though the parties were awarded “joint custody.”
There has been
a major backlash to the Dehring decision since l996 when it was
handed down. Senate Bill l244, was introduced by Sen. Bill Bullard, Jr.
to the Child Custody Act to prohibit a child’s parents from changing the
child’s residence to a new location more than l00 miles from where the
child lived at the time of the divorce if the parents were awarded joint
custody. That bill was passed into law. There are exceptions to the
statute if the parties agree to the move, if the move brings the parties
closer to one another, if the court has awarded sole custody to the
parent, or if the child lives more than l00 miles away from the
non-custodial parent at the time of the divorce. If none of these
exceptions applies, the court holds an evidentiary hearing.
evidentiary hearing, the parent proposing the move would has to prove --
as in the Dehring case — that the move would result in a better
life for that parent and the child. The court also considers the extent
to which the objecting parent had exercised his/her parenting time to
date. The court finally considers whether the moving parent wants to
increase his/her child support by decreasing the other parent’s
parenting time and whether there is or has been domestic violence in the
case (which might have precipitated the need to move).
Word to the
wise — Exercise your parenting time. Crusade for joint legal custody if
you believe that is in your child’s best interests. In most of these
cases, the past comes back to haunt a parent or to benefit him/her — so
the days since your judgment of divorce was entered are just as
important as the days before.