Domicile is the relation which the law creates between an individual and a particular locality or country[i]. It is the place with which s/he has a settled connection for certain legal purposes, either because his/her home is there or because that place is assigned to him by the law. A change of residence for a special purpose does not necessarily amount to a change of domicile[ii].
A student, although an adult, does not acquire a legal domicile at an educational institution where s/he resides with the ultimate intention of returning to his/her original home. When a student goes to a college town merely as a student, intending to remain there only until his/her education is completed and does not change his/her intention, s/he does not acquire a domicile there.
However, an adult student, independent of parental control and support, may acquire a domicile at the place where a university or college is situated, if s/he regards the place as his/her home, or intends to stay there indefinitely, without any intention of resuming his/her former home[iii].
The question of a student’s domicile is determined by the courts by following rules of law[iv]:
- The question whether a student’s voting residence is at the location of the college s/he is attending or where s/he lived before s/he entered college, is a question of fact which depends upon the circumstances of each individual’s case. Domicile is a highly personal matter. The fact that one is a student in a university does not entitle him/her to vote where the university is situated, nor does it of itself prevent his/her voting there. S/he may vote at the seat of the university if s/he has his/her residence there and is otherwise qualified.
- An adult student may acquire a domicile at the place where his/her university or college is situated, if s/he regards the place as his/her home, or intends to stay there indefinitely, and has no intention of resuming his/her former home.
- The presumption is that a student who leaves his/her parents’ home to enter college is not domiciled in the college town to which s/he goes. However, this presumption is rebuttable. It is an inference of fact based on probabilities and the common experience of mankind under the circumstances.
- A student’s physical presence in the college town where s/he seeks to vote demonstrably fulfills the residency requirement of domicile. However, the courts rely upon both his/her words and actions to determine whether the student has the requisite intent to make the town his/her home and to remain there indefinitely, the animus manendi. A person’s testimony regarding his/her intention with respect to acquiring a new domicile or retaining his/her old one is competent evidence, but it is not conclusive of the question. All of the surrounding circumstances and the conduct of the person must be taken into consideration.
Thus, in order to effect a change of domicile, there must be an actual removal to another habitation, coupled with an intention of remaining there permanently or at least for an unlimited time.
[i] Lea v. Lea, 28 N.J. Super. 290 (Ch.Div. 1953)
[ii] Lea v. Lea, 28 N.J. Super. 290 (Ch.Div. 1953)
[iii] Baker v. Varser, 240 N.C. 260 (N.C. 1954)
[iv] Hall v. Wake County Board of Elections, 280 N.C. 600 (N.C. 1972)