Parenting Time Orders During the Covid-19 Emergency or Other Weather or Health-Related Emergencies.
The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a reminder that all Court Orders regarding custody, parenting time and child support remain in effect at this time. Only a new Court Order can change that but the Courts are closed and only dealing with emergency situations so it would be difficult to change the order. The Michigan Supreme Court went on to indicate that, “if future government decisions restrict travel or if a child’s safety is at issue, parents should work together to keep the child’s access to both parents as close to the normal arrangement as possible. If it is necessary to share parental responsibilities in ways different than the Court Order provides, parents should cooperate with each other to further the child’s best interests. If parents are not able to agree between themselves how to do this, their Court Order continues to control what they should do.”
The Executive Order issued by Governor Whitmer on March 23, 2020, specifically allows for transportation for the exchange of children pursuant to a custody and parenting time order.
What does this mean for you? It is hard to predict what the Court will do if you withhold your child from the other parent. However, there are some things that youshould keep in mind.
If you make the decision to deny visitation and the other Party files a parenting time complaint, the Court can find you in contempt of Court. In most situations the Court would order make-up parenting time. It is critical that you attempt to work out any modifications of parenting time with the other parent. If you are unable to do so, I expect that the Court will consider many of the following issues.
If you have a specific reason for denying visitation, you should put that reason in writing and you should offer alternatives for contact currently and for makeup parenting time. Zoom or Skype or FaceTime will allow for video contact which should be taking place daily if the child is not getting to visit with the other parent. Reasonable make-up parenting time should be offered. Scheduling that time may need to wait until we are able to determine when this crisis has passed. If the other parent or someone in their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, I would expect that you are safe in denying visitation as long as make-up visitation is offered. The same would apply for someone who has been exposed until the incubation period passes. If you are simply concerned that exchanging the minor child or having the minor child with the other parent puts them at greater risk, consider the following: Are you practicing extreme social distancing for yourself and your child? If you are still going to work or the grocery store or having contact with other people and coming home to your child, how is your situation safer than the other parent’s situation? Have you withheld parenting time in the past? If there is ongoing disputes about parenting time being denied, the Court is going to be very suspicious that you are simply taking advantage of the current situation. I strongly encourage good communication between the Parties during this time. The Courts are simply unavailable except for limited emergency situations and we do not know how long that will last. Ultimately it is up to you to make the best decisions that you can for your child in balancing compliance with Court Orders, the importance of your child being able to have contact with both parents and your child’s physical health and safety. Please feel free to contact me directly if you wish to discuss your individual situation.
For more information we recommend reading the executive order from Michigan.gov: