Legal Residency Change in the Military

I am a in the military. My current residency is Louisiana. I would like to change my residency to Florida. What are the requirements to make this change? Also, I will be going to a 3 month school in Florida in conjunction with PCS orders to Puerto Rico. Would this help me?

Answer: to acquire a domicile of choice in a new place two things must happen:

(a) you must be in the state and

(b) while you are there and before you leave, you must intend to make it your permanent home.

Those two requirements are all that’s necessary. You don’t have to buy property in the new state, open a bank account there, vote, get a driver’s license, file a legal notice in the paper, or anything else. Physical presence, combined simultaneously with the appropriate mental intent, is all that’s required.

So your time in Florida will satisfy the presence requirement.

Unfortunately, proving mental intent can be difficult sometimes. So to prove that you really did intend to make the new state your domicile, it might be a good idea to do some or all of the things mentioned below, with the understanding that those actions are not what make you a legal resident; rather they are simply evidence that you did intend to make the state your SLR.

You do not need to live in the state for any length of time, own a home in the state, or to have an address in the state to be domiciled in it. You only need to be physically present in the state at the time you decide to make it your permanent home. You could for example, drive through the state and be so struck by its beauty that you immediately adopt it as your permanent home, but if you do not have feelings about it before you drive out of it, your domicile has not changed.

Domicile is primarily a state of mind that a certain place is your permanent home. It is a mental attachment that you carry around with you. Once you acquire a domicile it remains your domicile, even though you leave it, unless your state of mind changes while you are in another place.

If you change your state of domicile, you may have to prove it. You might, for example, have decided to stop paying state income taxes because you changed your domicile to a state with no income tax. Your old domicile, the state losing tax revenue, may question that change. Or your spouse, for example, might sue for divorce in your former domicile, and you might not like the divorce laws there. If you can prove your domicile changed, you might be able to get the case dismissed. In the case of taxes, if you cannot prove your domicile changed, you could end up owing taxes to two or more states, and require that a court decide the matter.

The best evidence of your state of mind is the contacts that other people can see you have with a specific state. For the kinds of actions to help prove your state of domicile see the list below. You may not prove successfully that your domicile has changed unless your show contacts beyond just the benefit of the legal consequences that a change of domicile would give you. You should have all your contacts with the one state you call your permanent home. If you have contacts with multiple states, it may be difficult or impossible to prove your domicile.

Actions to show intent:

1. Expressed intent, oral or written and physical presence, past and present (including duration) [Prerequisite to establishing domicile].

2. Voter registration [Important Factor]

3. Vehicle registration as a resident vice non-residence military [Important factor, but you have a choice.]

4. Motor vehicle operator’s permit [Important Factor]

5. Location of bank and investment accounts.

6. Explanations for temporary changes in residence.

7. Submission of DD Form 2058 (Change of domicile form).

8. Payment of taxes – income and personal property [Important Factor]

9. Payment of nonresident tuition to institutions of higher education

10. Declarations of residence on legal documents such as wills, deeds, mortgages, leases, contracts, insurance policies, and hospital records. [Important factor]

11. Declarations of domicile in affidavits or litigation[Important Factor]

12. Residence of immediate family.

13. Membership in church, civil, professional, service or fraternal organizations.

14. Ownership of burial plots.

15. Place of burial of immediate family members.

16. Location of donees of charitable contributions.

17. Location of schools attended by children.

18. Ownership of real property. [Important factor. However, ownership of property in another state will not disqualify.]

19. Home of record at the time of entering service.

20. Place of marriage.

21. Spouse’s domicile.

22. Place of birth.

23. Business interests.

24. Sources of income.

25. Outside employment.

26. Address provided on federal income tax return.

Generally, unless you have taken at least some of these steps, it is doubtful that you’re State of legal residence/ domicile has changed. Failure to resolve any doubts as to your State of legal residence/domicile may adversely impact on certain legal privileges which depend on legal residence/ domicile including among others, eligibility for resident tuition rates at State universities, eligibility to vote or be a candidate for public office, and eligibility for various welfare benefits. If you have any doubt with regard to your State of legal residence/domicile, you should see your Legal Assistance attorney for legal advice before deciding to change your domicile.