Child Custody/Parenting Time During And After COVID-19

Divorce affects all involved parties in various ways. Most couples go through an extended grieving process. Children also go through a grief period. In fact, the couple may go their separate ways; but, children continue to see both parents. Consequently, visitation becomes extremely important for the child of this divided union.

Michigan courts will assign physical and legal custody to one or both parents. Both parents usually get joint legal custody. One or both parents receive physical custody of the child or children. The Michigan Child Custody Act states it’s in the best interest of the child to have strong ties with both parents. Of course, if one parent is deemed “unfit” by the Court, then visitation and custody arrangements are established to protect the child. So, the Court always acts in the best interest of the child.

2020 threw a “monkey wrench” into the divorce process. Courts closed down for months and some people had “virtual meetings” with their attorneys and court officials. Additionally, the worry over this contagious virus affected some couples’ visitation schedules. More importantly, some parents came down with COVID-19. As a result, parenting time changes became necessary.

Co-Parenting During And After COVID

Many couples were faced with unique challenges in 2020 and 2021. The following questions and answers may provide guidance regarding the virus and visitation rights.

Q. Do I have to follow the visitation schedule during the Pandemic? YES. Visitation schedules should be followed as closely as possible. Obviously, parents must use common sense. For example, if the noncustodial parent comes down with COVID-19, the custodial parent may keep the child safely at home. When the sick parent recovers, the schedule may resume. During this time virtual visits may help. It’s important to keep a record of any schedule changes and the reasons for the change.

Q. What do I do if my ex prohibits me from seeing my children due to the Pandemic? If this happens contact the Friend of the Court. If that doesn’t help, contact an experienced Family law attorney.

Q. What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19? The CDC recommends that anyone that tests positive for this virus must quarantine for a period of time. So, the custodial parent would keep the child at home. Remember, the child’s best interests are key and a sick child should stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Q. Will I lose custody if I get sick and I must cancel my parenting time? No. You must take care of your health. Hopefully, your ex will not use this illness against you. However, some people are vindictive. So, make sure you have “ocular evidence” to support your illness. In other words, keep your positive COVID-19 test results, any prescribed medicine and records of hospital or doctor visits.

COVID-19 Visitation Scheduling Issues

The recent global pandemic created great stress for Michigan families. Many divorced couple adjusted child visitation schedules and other matters due to work, health and childcare needs. There were a number of issues and concerns that came up as a result of this, such as:

  • What happens when a parent is exposed to COVID-19?
  • Does the child live with that parent?
  • Is quarantine necessary?

Other issues involved school closures. Who monitored young children during this time? Sadly, visitation schedule disruptions due to COVID-19 created added stress for all families.

Custody Matters in Michigan

Michigan Courts grant two main custody types: legal and physical. Each type may be sole or joint. Michigan Courts prefer joint custody: however, a variety of arrangements exist based on the best interests of the child.

  • Sole Physical and Sole Legal Custody – This rare arrangement exists when only one parent is suited to care for the child.
  • Sole Physical and Joint Legal Custody – The child lives with one parent and a visitation schedule is established for the other parent. Parents share decisions regarding healthcare, education, and upbringing.
  • Joint Physical and Joint Legal Custody – The child spends time living with both parents and both parents share important decision making.

When a parent has sole physical and legal custody that parent makes all healthcare decisions. Parents with joint legal custody must agree on healthcare decisions. An attorney may be required if the parents disagree on medical matters such as whether or not the child will receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer Vaccine for Children

The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 and older in late October, 2021. Previously, children ages 12 and up could receive this shot. Now, parents must decide whether or not to vaccinate their children. When divorced parents agree there is no problem. However, some divorced parents have different opinions regarding their child’s healthcare. Then, custody orders may, or may not dictate which parent makes the final decision.

Family Court

Disputes over child vaccines may end up in court. If this happens, you need an experienced family law attorney. You must provide evidence to support your position for or against vaccination. Does your child have any health conditions that impact your decision? Sometimes medical reasons may prevent vaccination.

Other times, medical issues make vaccination critical. Either way, your attorney will present that information. If you are looking for a religious exemption, prepare relevant evidence. Remember, the Court rules in the best interest of the child.

Michigan Family Law & Child Custody Lawyer

The difficulties and challenges resulting from COVID are wide reaching and have been consistent since the early months of 2020. While the medical profession and scientific community is more aware of the risks, complications and mitigation factors surrounding the virus than they were in the beginning, controversy and conflicting opinions as to the proper risk mitigation techniques are widespread. This includes concerns about the use of vaccinations, especially with minors under sole or joint custody. Concerns regarding the health and well being of children is often one of the most emotional and ugly scenarios in family law.

Working with an attorney specializing in family law is strongly recommended in these situations. The expert family law attorneys at Kelly & Kelly PLLC have decades of combined experience helping families work through these issues and achieve amicable outcomes, including working through the family courts. If you are in need of assistance regarding a COVID related custody or parenting time concern, please contact our office today to find out how we can best assist you.

Contacting an Attorney

An experienced attorney can help when custodial parents disagree regarding their children receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Family Law Attorneys discuss disputes between divorced couples in an attempt to avoid Court Proceedings. Sometimes, talking out the situation with a third party may help. Also, your attorney will explain what happens when you allow the Court to make healthcare decisions for your child which may or may not be in your child’s best interests.

That being said, if talking with your attorney does not satisfy you, then your attorney will guide you through the next steps. Your attorney may refer you to the Friend of the Court (FOC) to arbitrate the dispute. After this, you may proceed to court if necessary.