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I know there are conflicting views on certain issues relating to following a local custom vs. one's family custom. However, what are the general concepts that are applied in determining the Halachah?

It should seem that the straightforward Halachah is that if someone moves to a new location that has a different Minhag than the Minhag with which one was raised, one automatically needs to conform. Yet, in matters ranging from Tefillah to public mourning to Yom Tov Sheini (in or out of Israel), there are conflicting practices within the same community.

What are the rules - or maybe the circumstances - that need to be weighed?

Some variables that might need to be considered (or might not, I don't know):

  • Visiting students (which can be subdivided into short-term, medium-term, and long-term, and can further be subdivided into other categories)
  • Official-ness of local Minhag
  • Majority observance of local Minhag (or not)
  • Type of Minhag
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    For an example of "[m]ajority observance...(or not)", France is now dominated by Sepharadim, although prior to the Holocaust it was for centuries dominated by Ashkenazi decisors of Halachah, primarily in the tradition of the Ba'alei Tosafoth. If you've never been, you should check out Le Grande Synagogue de Paris, aka Synagogue de la Victoire, which is of Ashkenazi tradition, and which is mostly empty on a Shabbath morning. It is quite spectacular. – Seth J Apr 19 '13 at 18:58
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Shulchan Aruch YD 214:2

קַבָּלַת הָרַבִּים חָלָה עֲלֵיהֶם וְעַל זַרְעָם; וַאֲפִלּוּ בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁלֹּא קִבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶם בְּנֵי הָעִיר בְּהַסְכָּמָה, אֶלָּא שֶׁנּוֹהֲגִין כֵּן מֵעַצְמָם לַעֲשׂוֹת גָּדֵר וּסְיָג לַתּוֹרָה; וְכֵן הַבָּאִים מִחוּץ לָעִיר לָדוּר שָׁם, הֲרֵי הֵם כְּאַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר וְחַיָּבִים לַעֲשׂוֹת כְּתַקָּנָתָן, וְאַף בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁהָיוּ אֲסוּרִים בָּהֶם בְּעִירָם מִפְּנֵי מִנְהָגָם וְאֵין מִנְהַג הָעִיר שֶׁבָּאוּ לָדוּר בָּהּ לֶאֱסֹר, הֻתְּרוּ בָּהֶם אִם אֵין דַּעְתָּם לַחֲזֹר.

Acceptance [of a prohibition] by the populace affects [i.e. is binding on] them and their descendants, even in those things the the people of the city didn't accept with a [formal] agreement, rather they practiced such on their own in order to create a fence and safeguard for the Torah. Similarly, newcomers from outside the city who come to reside there, they are like the [original] residents of the city and are obligated to act according to their [the original residents'] enactment. [Similarly,] even those things which were [originally] forbidden to [the newcomers] in the town from which they came according to their [the newcomers' original] custom, if [those things] are not customarily forbidden in the city to which they have moved, then [those things] are permitted to them, provided their intention is not to return [to their original city - i.e. their move is only temporary].

The Be'er Hetev adds qualifiers, based on Tosafoth and the Rosh, distinguishing binding customs sanctioned by a talmid chakham from nonbinding "inferior" customs, though even in the case of the latter, one may be obligated to avoid contention:

כתקנתן. מיהו היינו דוקא במנהג חשוב שנהגו כן ע''פ ת''ח אבל במנהג גרוע אינו חייב לעשות כתקנתן שלא בפניהם או בפני ת''ח רק בפני ע''ה חייב לנהוג כן כדי שלא יזלזל כ''כ התוספות מיהו כתב הרא''ש דאם יש לחוש למחלוקת אסור בכל ענין שאין לשנות מפני המחלוקת ועיין בא''ח ס''ס תצ''ו נתבאר כל חוץ לתחום אין נותנים עליו חומרי המקום שהלך לשם וע''ל ס''ס פ''ג (ועיין כנה''ג שהביא חלוקי דינים לענין המנהגים מנהג שנעשה לכבוד התורה דוחה אפילו שבות דרבנן מהרי''ק שורש ט' ועיין במשא מלך בדיני המנהגות. ועיין בח''מ (צ''ל בח''י) סי' קכ''ו דשם יבואר אם הבן מחוייב לנהוג חסידות ופרישות שנהג אביו. ושם יבואר דין ק''ק שנחרב ונתפזרו הב''ב אם עדיין עליהם כל חומרות המקום שנחרב ועיין הלק''ט סי' ק''ג ע''ש):

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In public one has to conform with the minhag of the place. Like putting on t'fillin on chol hamoed if everyone else does. Minhagim can change like if new people come and they become the marjority. For someone to change like chabad try to make everyone do, cannot be considered right. Those who visit Crakow and daven in the 'rmo' shul all daven ashkenaz even though they may usually be sfard. I am not sure what 'real' sfardim would do.

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    Do you have any sources for any of this? – Shimon bM Apr 22 '13 at 11:18
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Pesachim 51 discusses this topic. Generally it says (unless one is traveling from Israel to Chutz Laaretz and plans to return) one follows the local custom if it's more machmir (strict) or his old location's custom if that is more machmir. For a Tefillah nussach, they'd probably be equally machmir. It also says part of the reason for the above halacha is to avoid machlokes. What I've seen in practice is people follow their own Tefillah nussach unless they davin at the amud for the minyan. Also in the case of Yom Tov sheni, if you plan to return to Israel, you should not do melacha in public.

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    What about Chabad houses set up in communities with a standard tradition? What about someone who has moved and bought a house in a "new" location? What about someone who has lived in a "new" location for several years? – Seth J Apr 19 '13 at 19:00

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