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Modifications of Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21, requiring people in Michigan who are deemed non-essential workers or not engaging an essential activities to stay at home, has caused many parents to question whether they are required to abide by their custody and parenting time orders to return their children to the non-custodial parent. 

Section 7(b)(4) of Executive Order 2020-21 specifically states that individuals may travel “[a]s required by law enforcement or a court order, including the transportation of children pursuant to a custody agreement." Furthermore, on March 16, 2020 the Michigan State Supreme Court issued a statement that custody and parenting time orders remain in effect and “[o]nly a new court order can change that. Parents should continue to follow their court orders.”

On March 26, 2020 members of the family bar, including judges and referees, participated on a webinar on this issue as we navigate through unique and new territory. The consensus seemed to be that absent a very strong fact-based scenario, parents must follow their current parenting time orders. It does not appear to be enough that the custodial parent is not aware of the contact of the non-custodial parent with others or the contacts those members of the non-custodial parent’s household make with other people. It does not appear to be enough that the non-custodial parent is a first responder and therefore naturally more at risk than those parents who are homebound. It is presumed that those first responders are taking the necessary precautions and protocols. 

There are cases, however, where it may be that by granting parenting time you are putting your child in serious risk or harm. For example, if the child must fly to get to parenting time and has a high risk condition, such as being diabetic or having an auto-immune disease. Although most courts are accepting emergency motions, they have limitations on access to the courthouse and limitations on when they can hear the motion. Furthermore, although they can hold the hearing by telephone and/or by videoconference, they must adhere to the court rules which require that the hearing be recorded. If that is not a possibility, then you may be left without an avenue to appropriately have your order modified, if warranted.

The issue will likely be heard, whether it is before the scheduled parenting time or after when the non-custodial parent files a contempt motion or a motion for make-up parenting time. All parents should attempt to work together to resolve these issues. If the custodial parent has concerns, contact the other parent and offer make-up parenting time and frequent Skype or Facetime. If that does not work and you believe a motion is necessary, contact an attorney and ask whether an emergency motion, or a motion that can provide relief without a hearing is appropriate. Do all you can to appear that you made the most effort in this difficult situation.

© 2021 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 90



About this Author

Shalini Nangia Family Law Attorney Varnum Ann Arbor, MI

Shalini is a member of the Family Law Practice Team. She specializes in family law litigation, including high-income and high-asset divorces, custody and parenting time, child support, paternity, property division, retirement benefits and post-judgment matters. Her goal is to help clients during one of the most difficult times of their lives get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient and painless manner possible.

Shalini is a trained mediator and an adjunct faculty member teaching family law at the University of Detroit - Mercy School of Law, as well as a regular presenter...

Julia A. Perkins Family Law Attorney Varnum Novi, MI

Julia is the chair of the Family Law Team and works with clients in family law matters including divorce, child custody, child support and parenting time matters. She has unique experience with international custody cases and valuation and division of high net worth marital estates. She is also a certified mediator with a focus in family law.

Julia's experience also includes representing clients in commercial litigation.

Practice Areas

  • Family Law
  • Adoption
  • Business Owners: Valuations
  • Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support
  • ...
Erika L. Salerno, Kalamazoo, MI, Family Law attorney, Varnum

Erika handles family law litigation matters including complex divorces, initial and post judgment child custody matters, change of domicile, paternity, minor guardianship and third-party custody cases involving multistate jurisdictional issues across southwest Michigan. As a domestic relations mediator, she is frequently retained by other lawyers to mediate their most challenging cases. Trained in Collaborative Law, Erika has worked with clients using the Collaborative Law Process since she was trained in 2000.

In addition to her family law...

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