Domicile

Domicile is the relation which the law creates between an individual and a particular locality or country[i].  It is the legal conception of home[ii].

The word domicile is derived from the Latin term domus, which means a home or dwelling house[iii].

In a strict legal sense, domicile is the place where one has his/her true, fixed, permanent home, and principal establishment, and to which, whenever s/he is absent, s/he has the intention of returning, and where s/he exercises his/her political rights[iv].

Citizenship and domicile are synonymous for purposes of diversity jurisdiction[v].  Similarly, Domicile and residence are synonymous terms. Since domicile and residence are usually in the same place, they are frequently used as if they had the same meaning.  However, there is a marked distinction between domicile and residence.  Domicile means living in a locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home, while residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place[vi].

Types of domicile as organized under common law and statutes are:

  • domicile of origin,
  • domicile of choice or necessary domicile.; and
  • domicile by operation of law.

The determination of domicile is a mixed question of law and fact.  A person’s domicile, once established, can only be changed by an actual removal to another habitation, coupled with an intention of remaining there permanently or at least for an indefinite time[vii].

Domicile generally requires two elements[viii]:

  • physical presence in a state, and
  • the intent to remain there indefinitely (animus manendi).

Some of the factors traditionally considered when determining a party’s domicile are[ix]:

  • the person’s place of voting;
  • the location of the person’s real and personal property;
  • the state issuing the person’s driver’s license;
  • the state where the person’s bank accounts are maintained;
  • club or church membership; and
  • the person’s place of employment.

A U.S. citizen can change his/her domicile from one state to another at his/her discretion.  To carry out a change in the domicile, an adult must prove two things.  They are:

  • residence; and
  • intention to sustain that residence.

Both elements must coexist to effect a change in the domicile.  If both these elements are shown, the place where such person resides will be presumed by law to be his/her domicile.

[i] Lea v. Lea, 28 N.J. Super. 290 (Ch.Div. 1953)

[ii] Shreveport Long Leaf Lumber Co. v. Wilson, 38 F. Supp. 629, 631 (D. La. 1941)

[iii] State v. Garford Trucking, Inc., 4 N.J. 346 (N.J. 1950)

[iv] In re Garneau, 127 F. 677 (7th Cir. Ill. 1904)

[v] Mitchell v. Mackey, 915 F. Supp. 388 (M.D. Ga. 1996)

[vi] Green v. United States, 1962 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5122 ( E.D. Mich. 1962)

[vii] Shenton v. Abbott, 178 Md. 526 (Md. 1940)

[viii] Chico v. P.R. Elec. Power Auth., 312 F. Supp. 2d 153 (D.P.R. 2004)

[ix] Lundquist v. Precision Valley Aviation, Inc., 946 F.2d 8 (1st Cir. Mass. 1991)


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