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Custody and Parenting Time in Michigan During COVID-19

By: Wendy Alton

On March 23, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Michigan Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-21 which was a “Stay Home-Stay Safe” order requiring Michigan residents to shelter in place and restrict travel.  The Order was scheduled to expire on April 12, 2020, however, the Order may be extended and Governor Whitmer indicated on April 6, 2020 that an announcement may be coming shortly. 

Many parents have had questions about how this Order affects custody and parenting time.  First and foremost, if you have specific questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney.  However, there are some resources providing general guidance and clarification for handling custody and parenting time issues during this “Stay Home-Stay Safe” order.

First and foremost, Executive Order 2020-21 allows for the transportation of children between homes pursuant to a parenting time agreement.  This is stated in section (7)(b)(4).  Even though we are required to shelter in place, parents can drive children to and from homes pursuant to their custody and parenting time agreements or court orders.  The “Stay Home-Stay Safe” order itself is not grounds for refusing to comply with a custody/parenting time order or agreement.

The Michigan Supreme Court provided some guidance on March 16th prior to the “Stay Home-Stay Safe” order.  That guidance, found here, encouraged parents to work together to keep things as normal as possible for their children.  To the extent that parents can’t agree otherwise, the written agreement or order still applies and should be followed.

On April 2, 2020, the Michigan State Court Administrative Office published FAQs about Custody and Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Outbreak.  The most frequently asked questions about custody and parenting time are addressed, along with a helpful list of resources and information.

What happens if parents don’t agree, or a parent is violating the custody/parenting time court order or agreement?  With the “Stay Home – Stay Safe” order in place, most courts are closed or are only handling emergency issues.  It is crucial to check the website of the courthouse for updates and information, and/or speak to an attorney for guidance. For example, Washtenaw County Judges are hearing some emergency issues via video conferencing with ZOOM.  The procedures for the Court are detailed on their website here.  However, as the situation is frequently changing, check back often for updates.

The family law attorneys at PSED are still actively working remotely, and are available by phone or email.  If you have any questions, please contact Wendy Alton at walton@psedlaw.com, or Steve Tramontin, at stramontin@psedlaw.com, or call 734-665-4441.

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