Domicile (law)

Domicile is relevant to an individual's "personal law," which includes the law that governs a person's status and their property. It is independent of a person's nationality. Although a domicile may change from time to time, a person has only one domicile, or residence, at any point in their life, no matter what their circumstances.[1] Domicile is distinct from habitual residence, where there is less focus on future intent.

As domicile is one of the connecting factors ordinarily used in common law legal systems, a person can never be left without a domicile and a domicile is acquired by everyone at birth.[2] Generally domicile can be divided into domicile of origin, domicile of choice, and domicile by operation of law (also known as domicile of dependency).[3] When determining the domicile of an individual, a court applies its own law and understanding of what domicile is.[4]

In some common-law countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, the concept of domicile has been subject to statutory reform.[5] Further, under Canada’s Divorce Act, domicile has been replaced as the basis for which a court in a province has jurisdiction to hear and determine a divorce proceeding. Instead, "A court in a province has jurisdiction to hear and determine a divorce proceeding if either spouse has been habitually resident in the province for at least one year immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding".[6] Although domicile was traditionally known as the most appropriate connecting factor to establish an individual’s personal law, its significance has declined over the years in common law systems.[7]