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Michigan Family Law Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

How are Michigan Family Law Courts Handling Cases Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Michigan's Supreme Court has issued orders that affect the handling of family law cases during the coronavirus pandemic. Families attempting to navigate already stressful divorce and child custody matters may find these changes particularly overwhelming.

Whether your family law case needs to be filed or is currently in progress, working with a trusted family law attorney is essential. Michigan divorce attorneys are a vital resource when trying to understand how Michigan family law courts are processing cases amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and the Michigan Supreme Court’s Fundamental Order

The Michigan Supreme Court’s order limits courtroom occupancy to a maximum of 10 people, including court staff. As a result, courts are serving only essential functions, meaning those that cannot be done via digital or other communications.

Family Court and Essential Functions During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In-person hearings have been severely restricted and must meet the “essential function” standard. Eight In-person hearings that qualify as essential functions include:

  1. Requests necessary for the safety and well-being of the plaintiff, defendant, or children.
  2. Child protective proceedings.
  3. Safe delivery of a newborn child.
  4. Juvenile delinquency proceedings, if the juvenile is apprehended, detained, or in custody.
  5. Friend of the Court arraignments on bench warrants.
  6. Limited proceedings regarding personal protection orders.
  7. Parental consent waivers under the Parental Rights Restoration Act.
  8. Other emergency cases by discretion of the court.

Pending Trials and Hearings

Pending trials or hearings, though not regarded as essential functions, are not automatically canceled or postponed. Courts shall make every effort to conduct all other family court matters, including trials, utilizing 2-way interactive video conferencing, or other remote communications.

Filing Court Papers

Filing papers with the court should be done by email, e-Filing, fax, U.S. mail, or in person. Local courts will advise on how they are accepting filings. All deadlines for initiating cases and filing responses are temporarily extended. Your Michigan family law lawyer will be able to monitor filings and advise you of pressing time constraints. Note, judges retain discretion over deadlines.

Serving Documents

Certain documents are now required to be served electronically, such as motions, responses to motions, and answers to complaints. Your family law attorney will know which documents are eligible or required to be e-filed.

Child Custody and Parenting Issues

Parents are required to follow existing parenting time and custody arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes to parenting time orders, for the child’s best interest, may be made if the agreement contains a provision allowing for such change, generally by mutual agreement of both parties. Before making any changes to custody or parenting orders, it is best to consult your family law attorney to ensure compliance with the agreement and family law.

Support Concerns

The court expects parents to continue support payments as ordered during the pandemic. If you are receiving less support than ordered, keep detailed records and consult your attorney immediately. If you have suffered a reduction of income during the COVID-19 pandemic, your Michigan divorce attorney will advise you about a request for order to modify support.

The courts are expected to make staff available to record new child support orders and implement income withholding notices when necessary to ensure payment of support.

Michigan Family Law Attorneys are Available to Help

Divorce and child custody battles are often emotionally charged and may involve complex issues requiring immediate attention. Even under the best circumstances, these matters are stressful and difficult to understand.

If you have concerns regarding your divorce or child custody matters, our experienced legal staff can help. Contact our Michigan divorce lawyers today to speak with an attorney who will guide you through this challenging time.


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