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Modification of Parenting Time or Visitation During the COVID-19 Crisis

Like other states, Michigan has been subject to executive orders and other measures that require workers — except for those designated as essential — to remain at home in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. If you’re a divorced parent who shares child custody, you may wonder if these types of orders impact your parenting time and child visitation schedule.

The answer in general is no. Except in rare cases where a child’s health is threatened, you are required continue with your child visitation schedule as set forth in any agreement or court order. Deviating from the schedule or refusing to allow visitation could put you in breach. However, you have the right to seek court intervention if you believe your child’s best interests are being compromised.

On March 16, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a statement providing that custody orders and parenting agreements remained in full force and effect. This statement also offered guidance regarding what parents should do with respect to visitation during the pandemic. Even if the child’s other parent is an essential worker, health care professional or first responder, a parent can’t withhold visitation rights. At the same time, these essential workers need to follow all the recommended procedures and protocols for minimizing the risk of infection.

On March 24, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order stating among other things that Michigan residents were permitted to travel to transport children in accordance with a custody agreement. While the governor lifted the executive order, there has been no change in the state supreme court’s position.

If you’re a parent who is worried about your child being exposed to the virus during their scheduled visits with the other parent, you have these options:

  • Talk to the other parent — It’s worth asking the other parent if they’re willing to agree to a modification of your visitation schedule. However, even if the other parent agrees, you still need to submit your modified plan to the court and obtain the court’s approval. By formalizing it with the court, you ensure your new visitation plan is enforceable and binding on the other parent.
  • Ask the court to modify the custody agreement — If you can’t get the other parent to agree, you can ask the court for a modification of your parenting time. You do this by filing a motion with the court. The other parent has the right to respond and challenge the proposed modification. The court will consider what is in the child’s best interest, including any conduct by the other parent that you allege jeopardizes your child’s safety.

If you have questions or concerns about child visitation during the pandemic, it’s important to discuss them with an experienced Michigan child custody lawyer. At Shatzman & Shatzman, we help clients throughout Shelby Township and Chesterfield Township with a wide range of family law matters. To discuss your case, contact us online or call us at 586-800-3018.