On Friday, March 27, 27, 2020, I had the opportunity to be part of a zoom conference about family law and specifically parenting time in Michigan while the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order due to the Corona Virus is in effect. There were several judges, friend of the court referees and divorce lawyers from across the state included in the conference. There is no set law at this time, but it appears that the general consensus is parenting time should go on as follows.
If No One in Either Home is Showing Signs of Covid 19.
In this case, then the parenting time should continue as ordered. Generally court ordered transportation is exempt from the "shelter in place" orders, so this means that you are allowed to transport the children to and from scheduled parenting time. The parties should continue to follow the orders that are in place regarding the parenting time.
When the Child or Someone in the Home Shows Symptoms.
If someone appears to be symptomatic of the Corona Virus, then the person should be immediately tested. If the person has not tested positive, then parenting time should continue as ordered. It is important in these times of uncertainty for the parents to act together and to provide stability for the children. The kids will need both parents to provide them comfort in these very distressing and unusual times. The future may seem very uncertain and providing as much comfort, safety and stability for the children right now is of primary importance. This virus should not be used as an excuse to deny parenting time or further one party's agenda. To do so risks infuriating the judge and/or referee assigned to your case.
When Someone in the Home Has Tested Positive
If a child or another person has tested positive in the home, then the first step is to advise the other parent and provide a copy of the results via email. Then it should be up to the non-infected parent and that parent's household as to whether they wish to continue with the parenting time or not. If the parent does seek to continue parenting time, then of course, both households will have to follow a complete self-quarantine only leaving to transport the child to and from the other parent's home. Unfortunately there is no rule for how to handle this situation as it has not occurred in recent history, but this appears to be the consensus and comports with what I have already been advising my clients up to this point.
If the parties do reach an agreement regarding continuing parenting time or halting parenting time and agreeing to make-up parenting time, then that agreement should be in writing in case the court must be involved when it comes time to actually exercise the make-up parenting time.
When Someone In The Other Home Has Tested Positive.
I used the term other home to refer to the home where the child is not immediately present for lack of a better shorthand phrase. For instance, the child has been with one parent in his or her household for a week or weekend and someone in the other parent's home has tested positive.
This is the most difficult scenario. Most likely, given the fourteen day exposure window, the child has already been exposed. However, avoiding additional exposure might not be a bad idea. In this situation, if the parties cannot agree on how to handle the immediate problem and set make-up parenting time, then the party seeking to avoid the parenting time (not send the child to the other home) should immediately contact a family law attorney to file an emergency motion.
There were several referees and judges from Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Livingston County involved in the zoom conference. When asked for comment, the judges indicated that they have procedures in place for attorneys to file the motions. Then if the court cannot schedule an actual hearing to make a decision, they will issue an order based upon the filings (the paperwork alone without anyone actually appearing in court). When pressed a little, the judges stated that the courts are open for attorneys to file any family law motion, however the court will only make decisions and issue orders on a case-by-case basis. This means that for some motions, a decision will have to wait until after the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order is lifted. There appeared to be a consensus that the courts would make a decision and issue an order relatively quickly in this scenario. In any case (whether custody, parenting time or another family law or divorce matter), it is still very important to file the motion now to preserve the issue and frankly to mark your place in line for a hearing once the courts are fully open again.
Contact a Michigan Parenting Time Lawyer for Help
My office is open to schedule conference calls and if requested, facetime meetings. I too am a divorced parent, so I'm getting accustomed to using Zoom with my kids for school and other forms of communicating in the day of social distancing. There are procedures for filing motions and the court will hear certain motions on a case by case basis. If you have questions regarding any child support, custody or parenting time in Michigan, contact our Michigan parenting time attorney. We are here to help you in these extremely difficult times. Hang in there.
y office is open to schedule conference calls and if requested, facetime meetings. We are working on getting zoom as well but as of yet, most clients have found that a telephone conference sufficient. While the court is essentially in lock down, there are procedures for filing motions and the court will hear certain motions on a case by case basis. If you have questions regarding custody or parenting time in Michigan, contact our Michigan parenting time attorney. We are here to help you in these extremely difficult times.