COVID-19 and Parenting Time
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has taken an aggressive stance with a statewide “stay home, stay safe” Executive Order, originally set to end April 30th, and on April 22nd, she announced that the order will likely be extended, even if restrictions are relaxed to begin reopening certain segments of the economy. Michigan.gov provides a laundry list of parameters for the stay-at-home order, including when it is safe and reasonable to leave the home (to get groceries and needed medical care, for example), and when it’s not (to visit restaurants or participate in public gatherings).
Where does this leave parents splitting time with children between two households? Should you try to stick to your parenting time order of should children remain in one household for the duration, with makeup time to be determined? Is it safe to shuttle children between households? What if you feel that children are in danger due to changing hands frequently, in keeping with court ordered parenting time? Here are a few things you need to know before you make changes to the schedule or attempt to withhold parenting time.
Obeying Your Parenting Time Order
While it’s natural to feel concern over allowing your children to share time between two households when the stay-at-home order urges isolation in one place, the Executive Order does allow for children and parents to leave the home to comply with parenting time orders. Further, a failure to share parenting time as ordered by the court could result in consequences down the line, should the other parent bring the matter to the court’s attention.
Violating an existing court order is not the best move, even if you’re worried about the health and safety of your child. What can you do to ease your mind and protect your family? The best thing parents can do to help children through this tough time is agree on what is in their best interests. You and the other parent may agree that it’s best for kids to stay in one household until the Executive Order is lifted, and then arrange for makeup time. You could schedule Facetime, Skype, or other virtual visits with children to maintain contact throughout.
If the other parent is not amenable to this option, then try to agree on measures that will help to keep both households safe from the spread of COVID-19 (following CDC guidelines is a great place to start). It’s probably best to set your agreement in writing, and if you decide to continue with child exchanges, make sure to bring your court orders with you as proof of your need to travel with children.
What if One Parent Has Higher Risk of Exposure to COVID-19?
While all of us want to support healthcare workers and first responders during this crisis, it’s natural for parents to worry about the safety of children if the other parent (or persons in the other parent’s household) are at heightened risk of contracting coronavirus due to their status as an essential worker. However, this does not supersede court ordered parenting time.
While you can try to schedule a court hearing to argue your case for a temporary adjustment, the state of emergency could make it difficult to do so in a timely manner. Your best bet is to continue with your current arrangement and consult with a qualified attorney before making any decisions. For assistance, contact the experienced attorneys at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 or online to discuss your options.
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