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What do I do now that I have to follow COVID-19 related orders?

Father Leaving, Hugging DaughterThis blog has been updated with new information since its original publication. Due to rapidly changing laws and regulations surrounding COVID-19 matters, please consult your attorney or advisor for the latest information before taking any action.

You know that you want to see your child, but are uncertain of whether that is the right thing to do. Following the law means following orders. Co-parenting in today’s world means that orders include not only the Judge’s orders related to custody and parenting time in your case, but the Executive Orders of our Governor. Can doing what is right still mean doing something different?

First, you need to know the law. Governor Whitmer has issued two Executives Orders specifically referencing parenting time under custody orders. Executive Order 2020-42 issued on April 9, 2020 is no different than its predecessor Executive Order 2020-21 on this critical point: transportation of a child to conduct court ordered parenting time is allowed. Furthermore, the Michigan Supreme Court on March 16, 2020 issued a statement – not an opinion or order – indicating that it expects parents to cooperate to effect parenting time exchanges in the usual manner and make efforts to address that “children might also be nervous about current events and need reassurance from parents.” Your judge in your case will certainly take into account this statement when looking at your conduct during the pandemic. Since your individual court case has an order stating how those parenting time exchanges are to be conducted, presumably we all know what to do, right? Not exactly.

Second, you need to try your best to agree with the other parent about what is right. Without question, none of us can ignore the Executive Orders in place for safety to protect and sustain life. The question is how to work within the confines of the Executive Order and individual orders in your case to further the best interests of your child. If you learn that your child has COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 while in your care, you will want to discuss this with the other parent. You will want to decide between yourselves how to keep the connection between the other parent and child if you are in quarantine. If your household has an at-risk member residing within the household, then you and the other parent may want to discuss how to best limit exposure in both households. This is undoubtedly an issue for you if one parent is an essential worker and unable to remain strictly at home.

Third, no matter what your circumstances are, everyone needs to follow the rules and place the child at the forefront of any decision related to parenting time. However, if one parent is following the law and the other is not, then your child exchanges may increase your exposure to illness. For instance, Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-59 issued April 24, 2020 regarding rules necessary to sustain or protect life makes clear that activity outside of the home is still significantly curtailed. To clarify by way of example, this means that: (1) you can attend an AA meeting with less than 10 attendees, but you cannot go to your friend’s house for dinner, (2) you can travel to your cottage up north, but only if you own it and not if it is a vacation rental, and (3) only members of a single household are to reside together and you cannot otherwise “gather” in any number unless you meet an exception.

Now more than ever, courts want you to try resolving these issues together as parents. But if resolution isn’t possible, then consult with an attorney for other options available, including whether your matter is an emergency requiring the court’s intervention.

If you have questions about making the orders a workable solution for you in these changing times, contact your attorney:

Categories: Custody, Post Judgement

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Andrea offers more than a decade of courtroom experience in civil, criminal, family law and juvenile matters. Drawn to the particular needs of clients in family law, Andrea has dedicated her time to serving those navigating the sometimes complex arena of the family court system.

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