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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Change of Domicile Case from Clarkston Gets Supreme Court Treatment

One of the saddest things in a divorce proceeding is when a parent moves the family court for permission to change the domicile of the minor children.  When that occurs, not only is the family rocked by the initial shock of divorce, the future relationship with the parent left behind is placed in jeopardy.

A case from Clarkston, MI is instructive on the factors considered when such a motion is brought before the family court judge.

In Sunde v Sunde, mother petitioned the court to change domicile.  After considering evidence presented during a hearing on the issue, Family Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan denied the motion.  Although mother's application for  leave to appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order remanding the case to the family court for further evidentiary proceedings.

Specifically, the Supreme Court found that the lower court record was incomplete because evidence of domestic violence was not proffered.  Domestic violence is one of the five statutory factors the family court must consider when deciding a domicile motion.  The high court also instructed the lower court to consider "up-to-date information or evidence of other changes in circumstance arising since the trial court's most recent order."  The first time around, the parents' attorneys did not make these requisite offers of proof.

Essentially, the Supreme Court has allowed mother a second evidentiary bite at the "domicile" apple.  The fate of the Sunde children continues to hang in the balance.

As in all family court cases that are brought to trial, the family court judge is charged with deciding what is in the children's best interest rather than weighing the competing interests of the parents.  Hopefully, after hearing all the evidence on each statutory factor, the path becomes clear to the judge.

This case pits long-time Clarkston-area attorney Lawrence Russell against Ann-Marie Okros, also from the Clarkston area.

Our firm has an excellent track-record of prevailing in domicile trials.  If you or a family member would like a free consultation on this, or any other family law issue, use the contact information below to schedule an appointment.

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Anonymous Jennifer Simmons said...

This is not the first time Judge Brennan has ruled on a case without hearing all of the evidence and as a result, many are suffering!

January 10, 2011 at 12:14 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry Russell gives attorneys a bad name because of his unethical practices.

October 28, 2012 at 8:36 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's important that the courts here evidence of previous child abuse or violence when making these decisions. These children need peace in their lives. If there is an abusive parent involved then that child should not have contact with that parent anyway!

March 26, 2013 at 9:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry Russell is obviously not looking out for the best interest of the child in this case.

March 26, 2013 at 9:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry Russell represented me recently in my divorce. I could not have asked for better attorney during this very trying time for me and my children. He stood by me and my children. I can not thank him enough for his support and kindness through this time. From the beginning, his professionalism and knowledge of the law kept my children and I safe and together. I recommend him highly, Julie

November 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Russell for being there for me during the worst time in my life. I am so very glad I called you for help. Everything is finally back to normal and our holidays were wonderful because of all your help....

December 27, 2013 at 7:57 AM 
Blogger Timothy P. Flynn said...

Well Larry, it looks like some peeps in town are fans of yours. The fact that they are anonymous, however, and apparently not willing to publish their actual names, gives us pause. But we over here at the Law Blogger are nevertheless happy to give you some well-deserved good press.

December 28, 2013 at 7:15 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found this post as I was looking up info on Judge Bennan, who is presently ruling on my sister`s case. Like a previous posting, this Judge is making a ruling without looking at the evidence or offering any reason for her rulings. Subsequently throwing my sister out of the family home and separating her from her child. It is shocking that this could even happen

December 21, 2014 at 11:04 PM 
Blogger Timothy P. Flynn said...

To December 2014 Anonymous, family court judges do make their rulings based on evidence.Unlike the general civil court, however, family court is different; there are many basis presented, often by the lawyers, that go into a ruling. Evidentiary hearings are routinely conducted, but not for each and every incident brought before the court. For example, a motion call is the type of crowded hearing where the lawyers get heard by the court, but there is usually no time to put evidence on the record. The entire exercise is essentially an "offer of proof". Hopefully, your sister will be able to obtain fair and just results in her case.

December 23, 2014 at 6:46 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I gather is that a Judge has the power to do whatever they want in their rulings with the one caveate that it may be overturned by an appeal. But if the ruling means that the child is awarded to one parent and able to leave the country (domicile) the appeal is irrelevent as the case is now in a different country, and the Judge is off the hook and one parent looses total custody of their child (even if that parent has been the primary care giver and all documents and expert witness can attest to that and her mental capacity and ability to care for her child)

January 28, 2015 at 8:04 PM 

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