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A Better Partnership
March 22, 2015

COA clarifies distance calculations under Michigan’s 100 mile rule in child custody disputes

Michigan law provides that when parents share custody, one parent may not move more than 100 miles from the child’s legal residence at the commencement of the divorce action without obtaining either the consent of the other parent or court approval.  MCL 722.31(1).  In Eickelberg v. Eickelberg, No. 318840, the Court of Appeals held that for purposes of this rule, the distance of such a move should be measured starting from the child’s legal residence when the action for divorce is filed. 
 
Meggan and Ethan Eickelberg were married in 1999 and have three minor children.  In 2010, the court entered a consent order of divorce and awarded both parties joint legal custody, with physical custody awarded to the plaintiff mother.  When the complaint for divorce was filed, both parties lived in Clinton Township.  At some point after the complaint was filed, the defendant father moved to Perry, Michigan, approximately 86 miles from the plaintiff’s home.  In 2013, the defendant moved again, this time to Marshall, Michigan, which is located 126 miles from the plaintiff’s home in Clinton Township.  Soon after this move, the plaintiff brought a motion to terminate the parenting time coordinator and also alleging that the defendant’s latest move violated Michigan’s 100 mile rule.  The defendant countered by bringing a motion to change the parenting time exchange location to a place more convenient to his home in Marshall and requesting a modification of the parenting time order.
 
At a hearing on the motions, the circuit court held that the defendant was not required to seek consent or court approval for his move because Marshall was not more than 100 miles from Perry, his previous place of residence.  Plaintiff appealed this decision. The Court of Appeals held that by the statute’s plain language, the proper location from which to begin calculation of the 100 miles is from the child’s legal residence at the time of the commencement of the action. Here, at the commencement of the action the children’s legal residence was in Clinton Township.  The court further stated that although a parent may subsequently relocate a child’s legal residence after the issuance of an order governing custody, it does not change the residence which is the focus of the 100-mile rule.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals vacated the decision of the circuit court and remanded for consideration of the defendant’s move to Marshall using the factors set forth in MCL 722.31(4).

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