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Change of Domicile

Generally an adult can opt to change their domicile at his/her discretion[i].  A U.S. citizen can change his/her domicile from one state to another at his/her discretion[ii].

To carry out a change in the domicile, an adult must prove two things[iii].  They are:

  • residence; and
  • intention to sustain that residence.

Both elements must coexist to effect a change in the domicile.  The absence of any of the elements will not bring out a change in the domicile[iv].  However the law does not lay down a minimum period for residency[v].  A very short period of residence in a particular state can establish the domicile if the intention is proved.  Thus, a U.S. citizen can change his/her citizenship from one state to another frequently.  But a mere residence without intention will not make a new domicile.  Similarly, a floating intention to return to a former domicile will not prevent the acquisition of a new domicile[vi].

Also, the law does not mandate the requirement of intention to develop simultaneously with the physical move to another place.  A subsequent development of any one of the elements will help an adult to establish a domicile[vii].  But some courts have expressed a contrary opinion that physical presence as a preliminary step will not establish a domicile[viii].  Thus an adult must take up residence at his/her new domicile and s/he must also intend to remain in the new domicile.

The domicile of a party at the initiation of a lawsuit will continue until the disposal of the suit.  According to the U.S. Judicial Code, an adult who is domiciled in a state when a suit begins is a citizen of that state[ix].  The domicile at the time when the suit is filed is the controlling point and jurisdiction once established will not be lost by a subsequent change in domicile[x].

When a domicile is changes by an adult, his/her former domicile will be replaced with the newly acquired domicile[xi].

[i] Cruz-Martinez v. Hosp. Hermanos Melendez, Inc., 475 F. Supp. 2d 140 (D.P.R. 2007)

[ii] Bank One, Texas, N.A. v. Montle, 964 F.2d 48 (1st Cir. Mass. 1992)

[iii] Krasnov v. Dinan, 465 F.2d 1298 (3d Cir. Pa. 1972)

[iv] Marks v. Marks, 75 F. 321 (C.C.D. Tenn. 1896)

[v] Capoferi v. Capoferi, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18220 (D.N.J. Mar. 15, 2007)

[vi] Ribas v. Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, Inc., 315 F. Supp. 2d 156 (D.P.R. 2004)

[vii] Ford v. Peck, 116 Kan. 74 (Kan. 1924)

[viii] Keating v. Keating, 399 N.W.2d 872 (N.D. 1987)

[ix] Gambelli v. United States, 904 F. Supp. 494 (E.D. Va. 1995)

[x] Hawes v. Club Ecuestre El Comandante, 598 F.2d 698 (1st Cir. P.R. 1979)

[xi] Kirkpatrick v. Transtector Sys., 114 Idaho 559 (Idaho 1988)

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