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Distinctions Between Domicile and Residence

Domicile is a person’s permanent place of dwelling.  It is a legal relationship between a person and a locality.  It may or may not be of same meaning as the term ‘residence’.

The concept of domicile has different meanings in different context.  For purposes of jurisdiction, “domicile” means a legal residence which is the place where a person has fixed dwelling with an intention of making it his/her permanent home[i].

Domicile is a combination of two factors namely, residence and intent to remain.  As the term domicile includes residence, the scope and significance of the term domicile is larger than the term residence.  An individual may have several residences whereas; s/he will have only one domicile.  Domicile is more used in reference to personal rights, duties and obligations[ii].

Generally residence is referred to a place, where one person lives.  It is also a building used as home.  Residence is of a more temporary nature compared to domicile.  An individual’s present physical location of stay is residence[iii].  It may be one among several places where a person may be present.  Residence can also be referred to a person’s fixed place of stay without any intention to move from there.

Domicile involves intent of an individual whereas, residence is something objective.  A person may have his/her residence in one place and his/her domicile in another[iv].

Whether the term ‘residence’ used in a statute will be construed as having the meaning of ‘domicile’, or vice versa, depends on the purpose of the statute.  Also, the nature of the subject matter as well as the context in which the term is used would be taken into consideration[v].

The terms are given equivalent meaning when used in connection with subjects of domestic policy.  These terms are given equal meaning where a statute stipulates residence as a qualification for the enjoyment of a privilege or the right of voting in an election[vi].

Residency is a more flexible concept than domicile, and permanency is not a requirement for residency.  Even a temporary and transient place of dwelling can qualify as residence. In addition, a minor is legally unable to establish a residence separate and apart from their parents[vii].

Residence takes meaning from the context in the term is found.  A definition which fits one situation will not be apt when used in another context or in a different sense[viii].

[i] Snyder v. McLeod, 971 So. 2d 166 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 2007).

[ii] McIntosh v. Maricopa County, 73 Ariz. 366 (Ariz. 1952).

[iii] George Zulakis, Personal Representative of the Estate of Charles M. Decker v. Auto-owners ins. Co., 2001 Mich. App. LEXIS 1874 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2001).

[iv] Missouri Pacific R. Co. v. Lawrence, 215 Ark. 718, 223 S.W.2d 823, 12 A.L.R.2d 748 (1949).

[v] McIntosh v. Maricopa County, 73 Ariz. 366 (Ariz. 1952).

[vi] Id.

[vii] McLeod v. Allstate Ins. Co., 789 So. 2d 806 (Miss. 2001).

[viii] State v. Tustin, 322 S.W.2d 179, 180 (Mo. App. 1959).

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