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Visitation Concerns During COVID-19

Visitation in Michigan During the Coronavirus Pandemic

When it is difficult to navigate life with school closures, working from home and empty grocery store shelves, it is even more challenging for divorced and separated parents to deal with additional hurdles during the Covid-19 outbreak.  We’ve considered some anticipated problems and what you may expect during the Covid-19 outbreak. How do all these changes affect visitation in Michigan? Our Grand Rapids visitation attorneys are here to help you during this difficult time. 

Which Visitation Schedules Will Be Changed?

If you are separated from the other parent or you are divorced with children, absent an agreement, your visitation with your children will be decided by a judge.  The judge will issue an order that provides both parents with a visitation schedule, often called parenting time.   Your visitation schedule will be based on the child custody best interest factors and certain parenting time factors.  Only if circumstances change or when there is proper cause may you ask for a modification of your visitation schedule.  

If your circumstances changed because of the Coronavirus, let’s review some of the possible changes that may allow you to request a change in your parenting time order.

Does the Covid-19 Outbreak Provide a Change in Circumstances?

Michigan law requires that you must show a change in circumstances that is more than just the normal changes in a child’s life.  The virus itself would not provide a change in circumstances that would allow you to ask for a change in your visitation.  However, the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak, such as closed schools, a change in employment status, flight unavailability, may provide a change in circumstances allowing you to request a change in parenting time.

Examples of a Change in Circumstances During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Many visitation schedules provide a schedule when school is not in session, and the order does not state what will happen if there is no school during the school year.  Many Michigan parents are required to stay at home due to the coronavirus. During the time at home, both parents could care for the children. That alone is not likely a significant change that would warrant a change in parenting time. The judge will review the custody and parenting time best interest factors and review each of your abilities and willingness to support the children’s continued education and review your history of helping the children with their schoolwork. 

Some court orders provide for visitation requiring the children to fly between the parents’ homes.  During the Covid-19 outbreak, the flights may no longer be available at a reasonable cost and many parents may not find it safe for the children to fly when there is an increased chance to be infected with the virus.

Some court orders provide for pick up at school.  Parents who alienate the children from the other parent may use such a provision as a reason to deny parenting time.  Because most Friend of the Court offices are closed, no prompt relief can be obtained by filing a parenting time violation form. When faced with that predicament, that would be a basis for an amendment of the court order during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Some parents may have longstanding concerns about the other parent’s ability to parent. Now that the children are full time in the parent’s care, and no longer in daycare or in school, the children’s exposure to abuse and neglect increases significantly which may provide a change in circumstances if enough evidence is provided.

We can not possibly discuss every possible scenario that would provide a change in circumstances.  A consultation with an attorney at Kraayeveld Law will provide you with answers regarding your specific case.  To speak with a Grand Rapids visitation attorney, please call 616-219-0123 or contact us online.   We can discuss your specific situation to protect your relationship with your children.

What Happens to Parenting Time in Case of an Emergency?

There are some situations that require a judge to review the visitation schedule immediately.  With most court buildings closed for family law, it is difficult for parents to ask a court for an emergency order for their child.  The Grand Rapids visitation attorneys at Kraayeveld Law are still able to request judges for emergency relief, and especially during the Covid-19 outbreak, some parents need such relief.

With schools not being in session and Michigan’s Shelter-in-Place order in effect, tensions rise for Michigan parents.  Reports from China suggest a significant spike in domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak.  When you learn that your child has witnessed Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or is the victim of domestic violence, you cannot wait a few weeks or months until the West Michigan courts operate with a regular schedule again.  Our attorneys can help immediately.

When you learn that your child is being exposed to someone with the Covid-19 virus, you will need emergency relief and to have the child removed from that home.  Our attorneys can help immediately and petition the court for emergency relief.

What Has Changed in the Michigan Courts during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

Friend of the Court’s offices are closed for parents needing to pick up and file a parenting time violation complaint form.  Court buildings are also closed for parents wanting to file a motion in person.  Each court and many judges have created policies how they will handle their cases.  Hearings are postponed, sometimes cases are decided with a telephone or video conference and many cases are decided based upon the parties’ written documents.

With court buildings and clerk’s offices closed, parents can no longer visit their local Legal Assistance Center to obtain forms and file them in person at the clerk’s office. 

Contact the Grand Rapids Visitation Attorneys for Help During This Troubling Time

When judges decide visitation issues based on the written motions and responses filed by the parents, it is very important to provide the judge with documents that comply with the court rules and rules of evidence so that the judge will review all your evidence and arguments.  Please call the Grand Rapids visitation attorneys at Kraayeveld Law at 616-219-0123 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer when you need to petition the court with a change in your visitation or parenting time.