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Navigating Parenting Time During COVID-19

Establishing parenting time during or after a divorce is difficult, more so currently, given the global health crisis we are experiencing. But a lot of parents have reached out asking how they can navigate through COVID-19 and still establish parenting time with their child and spouse. So I sat down with Senior Partner and Environmental Lawyer Paul Bohn to answer some of the most frequent questions we receive. Read my list of tips for Navigating Parenting Time During COVID-19 below!

What if my Ex-Spouse does not want to send our child back to school but I do?

We have been asked this specific question A LOT. Some parents feel comfortable sending their child back to school and some do not, that's okay! But no matter your feelings on the matter, Courts are currently recommending couples sit-down and talk it out; because their overwhelmed, everything is being pushed back, and the last thing anyone wants is their child missing school. So, communicating your thoughts on whether or not to send your child back and understanding where your partner is coming from is crucial to get any results.

What is the best way to mediate?

Sitting down for mediation with an attorney can be your best bet at a resolution. The office of Fausone Bohn is conducting mediations via Zoom, but we offer the option of in-person if someone is more comfortable with that. With mediation, it's important to logically evaluate situations like this to decide what will work and what won't so you can quickly and effectively resolve the dispute. For example, if your ex-spouse wants your child to opt for online learning but they work from 9 am - 5 pm, and no one is home, that's obviously not going to work.

What is the best way to establish parenting time during quarantine?

At the beginning of the shut-down by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, it was made clear that couples were to maintain their current parenting time schedules despite the shut-down. Specifically exempting transporting your child to-and-from visitations from the stay-at-home order. But obviously, this varies on a case-to-case basis.

What if I lost my job but my spouse did not?

You should immediately contact an attorney to change your child support payments. What we have noticed recently is a lot of companies are including the specific timeframe of the salary reduction. Taking that into consideration, it's effective to draft two different uniform child support orders, one including the decreased income that is retroactive to when you lost your job, and one with the date your income is expected to go back to normal.

What can I do if my ex-spouse is not following CDC guidelines and potentially endangers my child or myself?

Unfortunately, there is not much an attorney or a spouse can do from this standpoint, what the Courts are most concerned about is the best interests of the child. So, while an attorney/spouse cannot do much to make their ex-spouse comply with CDC recommendations and guidelines, what we can do is bring a motion to discuss with the court or hold a mediation to resolve this.

Can I be held in contempt for denying my ex-spouse parenting time due to COVID-19?

You possibly can, but it depends. For example, if you know your ex-spouse has a positive COVID-19 test in their household, and they are seeking to continue your parenting time schedule like normal; that is a reasonable excuse to temporarily deny parenting time. This situation is serious enough to bring to the court's attention, however, we request that if you do deny parenting time, that you offer make-up parenting time in the future so you're not denying without offering a substitute.

How can I change parenting time if my spouse has a high-risk job for contracting COVID-19?

What we recommend not doing is take self-help advice and solely deny parenting time. This would be grounds to file a motion to allow the spouse make-up parenting time in the future.

What if my spouse wants to test our child for COVID-19, but I do not?

If your child's physician is recommending they be tested for COVID-19, it's in their best interest; as it is in the best interest for yourself and your spouse as well. If your child is sent back and forth between your homes, it's important to make sure they are negative, so they do not transmit it to you or your spouse.

If you share joint custody with your spouse, this decision should be made together. But if it is discovered your child has been exposed to the virus, it will require a quick decision to be made regarding the testing.

Our final words of wisdom for navigating parenting time during COVID-19 wraps up all of these tips into one. Before doing anything regarding your parenting time schedule, parenting time as a whole, testing, or denying parenting time, it's in your best interest to contact an attorney first to avoid causing additional issues with your current agreement. At the Law Firm of Fausone Bohn, LLP, our Family Law team is working hard to help parents navigate these treacherous waters, as well as mediate issues in a quick and professional fashion. Reach out to our Family Law team at (248) 380-0000 or email us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding navigating parenting time during COVID-19.

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