Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Governor Whitmer’s March 23, 2020 Executive Order and Custody/Parenting Time

On March 23, 2020 Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2020-21 titled “Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.”  This order specifically addresses custody agreements and the order does not prohibit travel for parenting time exchanges.

Individuals may also travel: As required by law enforcement or a court order, including the transportation of children pursuant to a custody agreement.” Executive Order No. 2020-21 7(b)(4).

The Michigan Supreme Court has also weighed in on the issue of custody and parenting time orders:

“The Supreme Court wants to remind parents that all court orders for a child’s custody, parenting time and support are still in force. Only a new court order can change that. Parents should continue to follow their court order.

If future government decisions restrict travel or, if a child’s safety is an issue, parents should work together to keep the child’s access to both parents as close to the normal arrangement as possible. Remember that children might also be nervous about current events and need reassurance from parents. If it is necessary to share parental responsibilities in ways different than the court order provides, parents should cooperate with each other to further the child’s best interests. If parents are not able to agree between themselves how to do this, their court order continues to control what they should do.”

Parents should continue to follow the custody and parenting time orders issued by the Court.  In the event of a health or safety concern, speak to the other parent about your concerns if possible or reach out to an attorney immediately.  Violation of a court order may result in contempt proceedings.

If you have any questions regarding custody and parenting time exchanges, contact Breitmeyer Cushman PLLC.


AAML: Guidelines for Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have issued the following joint statement for sharing custody and parenting time during the COVID-19 pandemic. See the full statement here.


Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.


Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.

3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.

As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.


At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.


Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.


Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.


There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.

Breitmeyer Cushman attorney Carol F. Breitmeyer is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.  She can be reached at (313) 962-4600.

Breitmeyer Cushman: Q&A During COVID-19

Q:        Are courts open? 

A.    Yes.  Judges are available for family law cases on a limited basis for emergencies only.  Some judges are holding more routine hearings via video and telephone, but it varies by county and by judge.  Each court has its own protocol right now and we are informed.  Additionally, documents are still able to be filed/processed, though again, there is a different system for it in each county. 

Q:        Is your office open?

A.    Yes!  As always, please call or email us to discuss your particular situation.  While our physical office is temporarily closed, we are definitely open and available via phone, video conferencing and/or email.  Lori is answering phones per usual.  We will also be adding helpful information and tips to our blog to help during this time.  www.TheMichiganDivorceReport.com