PARENTING TIME REGARDING COVID-19 VIRUS
On March 23, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) which requires all non-essential workers as defined in the Order, to Stay Home, Stay Safe for the next three weeks at least, starting at midnight on March 23, 2020 The Order provides a list of exceptions to the rules including addressing compliance with custody and parenting time orders.
Section 7(b)(4) states:Individuals may also travel:
1. To return to a home or place of residence from outside this state.
2. To leave this state for a home or residence elsewhere.
3. To travel between two residences in this state.
4. As required by law enforcement or a court order, including the transportation of children pursuant to a custody agreement.
Further, on March 16, the Michigan State Supreme Court issued a Statement on Matters Concerning Children which provides in pertinent part:
“The Supreme Court wants to remind parents that all court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time and support are still in force. Only a new court order can change that. Parents should continue to follow their court orders.”
When reading the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order together with the Michigan Supreme Court’s Statement on Matters Concerning Children, all parties should comply with all existing custody, parenting time and support orders unless and until they are changed.
The Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order does NOT prohibit parents from leaving home to pick up or drop off their children to the other party’s residence to comply with custody and parenting time Orders and Agreements.
Guidelines Regarding Custody and Parenting Time Orders From the Family Court Bench in Eaton County
- Each family law case is unique and the Court is required to consider the facts of each case before making a decision regarding custody and parenting time. Once an order is entered it cannot be modified unless there is a change of circumstance or proper case. This pandemic has created both of those situations. However, the following guidance should be followed:
- The mere fact there is a pandemic is NOT grounds to deny parenting time.
- Actual Covid-19 in a home would be a basis to adjust or temporarily suspend contact with that home which could mean modification of the existing order.
- Parties are always encouraged to discuss appropriate and responsible care of their children. If appropriate, and in the best interests of their children, parties should reach a written agreement to adjust or suspend a parenting time order which should include increased telephone and video communication and make-up parenting time.
- Self-help is not an accepted course action, therefore if you cannot reach a written agreement to modify your order, file an emergency motion asking the existing order be modified or suspended.