The House considered the domicile of the respondent’s father at the time of the respondent’s birth. The father had been born in Scotland but had left Scotland and taken a lease of a house in London. He had a castle in Scotland but that was not habitable. He visited Scotland frequently but had no residence there. In 1844, he sold the lease and his personal possessions and left London for France to avoid his creditors. But he did not intend to reside permanently in France. His first wife died in 1846, and he formed a liaison with the respondent’s mother who, in 1853, gave birth to the respondent in London. He married her and went back to Scotland thinking that he would thereby legitimise the respondent, avoid his creditors and bar the entail on his estates. He intended to stay in Scotland because he thought he would be safe from his creditors.
Held: The father had lost his domicile of choice in England and that his domicile of origin had revived. The court set out the tests establishing domicile.
The House quoted Scott in La Virginie: ‘It is always to be remembered that the native character easily reverts, and that it requires fewer circumstances to constitute domicile in the case of the native subject than to impress the national character of one who is originally of another country.’
Lord Hatherley LC said: ‘A change of [a person’s domicile of choice] can only be effected animo et facto -that is to say, by the choice of another domicile, evidenced by residence within the territorial limits to which the jurisdiction of the new domicile extends. He, in making this change, does an act, which is more nearly designated by the word ‘settling’ than by any one word in our language. Thus we speak of a colonist settling in Canada or Australia, or of a Scotsman settling in England, and the word is frequently used as expressive of the act of change of domicile in the various judgments pronounced by our Courts.’ nad
‘It seems reasonable to say that if the choice of a new abode and actual settlement there constitute a change of the original domicile, then the exact converse of such a procedure, viz., the intention to abandon the new domicile, and an actual abandonment of it, ought to be equally effective to destroy the new domicile. That which may be acquired may surely be abandoned, and though a man cannot, for civil reasons, be left without a domicile, no such difficulty arises if it be simply held that the original domicile revives.’
Lord Westbury: ‘The law of England, and of almost all civilized countries, ascribes to each individual at his birth two distinct legal states or conditions; one by virtue of which he becomes the subject of some particular country, binding him by the tie of natural allegiance, and which may be called his political status; another, by virtue of which he has ascribed to him the character of a citizen of some particular country, and as such is possessed of certain municipal rights, and subject to certain obligations, which latter character is the civil status or condition of the individual, and may be quite different from his political status. The political status may depend on different laws in different countries; whereas the civil status is governed universally by one single principle, namely, that of domicil, which is the criterion established by law for the purpose of determining civil status. For it is on this basis that the personal rights of the party, that is to say, the law which determines his majority or minority, his marriage, succession, testacy, or intestacy, must depend.’ and ‘Domicil of choice is a conclusion or inference which the law derives from the fact of a man fixing voluntarily his sole or chief residence in a particular place, with an intention of continuing to reside there for an unlimited time. This is a description of the circumstances which create or constitute a domicil, and not a definition of the term. There must be a residence freely chosen, and not prescribed or dictated by any external necessity, such as the duties of office, the demands of creditors, or the relief from illness; and it must be residence fixed not for a limited period or particular purpose, but general and indefinite in its future contemplation. It is true that residence originally temporary, or intended for a limited period, may afterwards become general and unlimited, and in such a case so soon as the change of purpose, or animus manendi, can be inferred the fact of domicil is established.’ and
‘Domicile of choice, as it is gained animo et facto, so it may be put an end to in the same manner.’
Judges: Lord Westbury, Lord Hatherley LC
References: (1869) 1 LR Sc & Div 441, (1869) LR 1 HL 441
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