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Habitual residence

In conflict of laws, habitual residence is the standard used to determine the law which should be applied to determine a given legal dispute. It can be contrasted with the law on domicile, traditionally used in common law jurisdictions to do the same thing.

Habitual residence is less demanding than domicile and the focus is more on past experience rather than future intention. There is normally only one habitual residence where the individual usually resides and routinely returns to after visiting other places. It is the geographical place considered "home" for a reasonably significant period of time.

The concept of habitual residence is used in a number of international conventions, beginning with the Hague Convention on Civil Procedure of 14 November 1896 and a number of international conventions dealing with conflict to complement or supplant the traditional connecting factor of domicile, e.g. in the Rome Convention 1980, but it was replaced, with respect to legal entities by the new connecting factor of principal office. It is the basis of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention on International Child Abduction, etc.

Habitual residence is something less than domicile but more than simple residence. It may also be more discriminating that the test of nationality or lex patriae in that the connection is to a specific location within a state rather than to the country of nationality which may contain several subnational jurisdictions (such as states or provinces). Hence, where a country contains more than one legal system, the residence must determine which of the several possible laws might apply (e.g. in the United States which of the laws of the U.S. states is to be applied). A supranational example of this selection process is contained in Article 19 of the Rome Convention:

States with more than one legal system
  • UNHCR Index of documents on the subject.


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