Domicile of Choice


A domicile of choice is a self acquired domicile.  It is a domicile which a person chooses to replace his/her former domicile, which may be either a domicile of origin or domicile of choice.  Only a legally competent person can choose his/her domicile[i].

According to common law every independent person can acquire a domicile of choice by satisfying the following conditions.  They are:

  • s/he must have a freedom of choice[ii];
  • s/he must make an intention to change their current residence;
  • s/he must change the residence to some other state[iii]; and
  • s/he must have an intention to make the new residence his/her permanent residence.

However a person can abandons his/her domicile of choice in a country by satisfying the following two conditions:

  • s/he must cease to reside in the country; and
  • s/he must have an intention to cease their residence permanently.

On abandoning a domicile of choice a person acquires either a new domicile of choice or his /her domicile of origin will revert back to the former domicile[iv].  The rule that the domicile of origin will come back to a person who ceases his/her domicile of choice has been criticized by some courts.  However, no person can reside in a state without a domicile, and no person can hold more than one domicile at a time[v].

In practice, it is very difficult to prove the intention of permanent residence, because it is assumed that every individual retains affection to his/her previous state and plans to return one day.  A statement of intention made by the person himself/herself will not be sufficient to attribute a domicile of choice.  The intention must be ratified by a conduct to establish a new domicile[vi].

However, if there is a combination of physical presence, legal capacity, and the required attitude of mind then a change of domicile will have a legal impact.

[i] Sasse v. Sasse, 41 Wn.2d 363 (Wash. 1952).

[ii] Commonwealth v. Kernochan, 129 Va. 405 (Va. 1921).

[iii] Stevenson v. Steele, 352 Md. 60 (Md. 1998).

[iv] Talley v. Commonwealth, 127 Va. 516 (Va. 1920).

[v] Newman v. Newman, 558 So. 2d 821 (Miss. 1990).

[vi] State Election Bd. v. Bayh, 521 N.E.2d 1313 (Ind. 1988).