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Law Governing Domicile Determination

The basic purpose of domicile is to link a person with a system of laws (of a state) to which s/he is most related.  The questions regarding an individual’s domicile are determined by a court of the state which has jurisdiction over that individual.  The determination of the question of domicile is also governed by the choice of law principle[i].  However, the question of domicile is not determined by the choice of law principle alone[ii].

Domicile questions are also determined by common law.  However, common law rules regarding domicile has been altered by several states with the help of statutes[iii].  In case of matters falling under diversity jurisdiction, the question of domicile is determined by federal law[iv].

In cases where a court must determine the question of domicile applying the federal statute, the term domicile will be interpreted by understanding the congressional intent [v].  However, a commonly invoked presumption about congressional intent is that congress does not have the intent to change judge-made law.  The purpose behind considering the congressional intent is to avoid an interpretation that would raise serious doubts about a statute’s constitutionality[vi].  If the court finds that they cannot resort to the  congressional intent, the courts will apply the general principles of state law to find out the applicable law.  This is provided such state law principles are consistent with the statute in question.

[i] Landsman & Funk, P.C. v. Skinder-Strauss Assocs., 636 F. Supp. 2d 359 (D.N.J. 2009)

[ii] Rodriguez-Diaz v. Sierra-Martinez, 853 F.2d 1027 (1st Cir. P.R. 1988)

[iii] Kantor v. Wellesley Galleries, Ltd., 704 F.2d 1088 (9th Cir. Cal. 1983)

[iv] Brumfield v. Farley, 243 F. Supp. 2d 574 (S.D. W. Va. 2002)

[v] State v. Burnett, 227 Neb. 351 (Neb. 1988)

[vi] Lionberger v. United States, 178 Ct. Cl. 151 (Ct. Cl. 1967)

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