Friday, October 29, 2010

Change of Domicile Case From Clarkston Gets Supreme Court Treatment

One of the saddest things in a divorce proceeding is when a parent moves the family court for permission to change the domicile of the minor children.  When that occurs, not only is the family rocked by the initial shock of divorce, the future relationship with the parent left behind is placed in jeopardy.

A case from Clarkston, MI is instructive on the factors considered when such a motion is brought before the family court judge.

In Sunde v Sunde, mother petitioned the court to change domicile.  After considering evidence presented during a hearing on the issue, Family Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan denied the motion.  Although mother's application for  leave to appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order remanding the case to the family court for further evidentiary proceedings.

Specifically, the Supreme Court found that Judge Brennan erred by not considering mother's proffered evidence of domestic violence; one of the five statutory factors the court must consider when deciding a domicile motion.  The high court also instructed the family court to consider "up-to-date information or evidence of other changes in circumstance arising since the trial court's most recent order."

Essentially, the Supreme Court has allowed mother a second evidentiary bite at the "domicile" apple.  The fate of the Sunde children continues to hang in the balance.

As in all family court cases that are brought to trial, the family court judge is charged with deciding what is in the children's best interest rather than weighing the competing interests of the parents.  Hopefully, after hearing all the evidence on each statutory factor, the path becomes clear to the judge.

This case pits long-time Clarkston-area attorney Lawrence Russell against Ann-Marie Okros, also from the Clarkston area.

Our firm has an excellent track-record of prevailing in domicile trials.  If you or a family member would like a free consultation on this, or any other family law issue, use the contact information below to schedule an appointment.