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Residence or Domicile – what’s the difference? Chicago Mayor Issue

Posted on Jan 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

People in Chicago have themselves all in a knot. Can Rahm Emanuel run for Mayor? At issue is whether he remained a resident of Chicago while he was living in Washington DC serving as President Obama’s chief of staff.

People who don’t like Rahm are sure that he is evading the law. People who like Rahm thinks that the courts are fixed and that this is just so much political chicanery of the opponents.

We seem to be forgetting a big difference between two legally related terms – terms which sometimes make a difference for the purposes of bankruptcy. These terms are “residence” and “domicile”. “Domicile” is the place where you sleep at night. “Residence” is the place you call home. It’s not that complicated.

A soldier who resides in Illinois in Afghanistan is domiciled there – at least temporarily. Or he might be domiciled at his military base in North Carolina or Georgia if Afghanistan is his temporary duty assignment. All the while, however, he retains his Illinois residence. He can vote in Illinois. He will have an Illinois drivers’ license. He pays Illinois taxes as a resident.

Domicile is a question of fact. Residence is a question of intent. Rahm owned his home in Illinois. Sure he rented it out to pay some expenses while he was working in Washington. But he intended to return. It is his home. It’s been his home for years and he intended to keep it that way.

People can file bankruptcy cases where they reside, where they transact business or where their assets are located. So residence is important.

A snow-bird from Illinois can spend many months a year at a home in the sunshine. However that does not detract from permanent residency in Illinois. Temporarily, that person is domiciled in Arizona, Florida or Hawaii. However, continuously, that person resides in Illinois.

I expect the Illinois Supreme Court to come to this common sense conclusion.


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