From the day COVID-19 arrived in the United States, almost every way that we went about our lives each day changed. Quarantining and mask-wearing soon became the norm, and soon, stores were without paper towels and toilet paper, and offices were closed. Children had to stop learning at school and start learning at home on Zoom.
In the midst of all of these changes, parents had to adapt as quickly and as smoothly as possible to try to maintain some normalcy for their children. Part of the normalcy that contributes to a child’s wellbeing is their relationship with their parents.
One of the most difficult things when parents separate is resolving the issue of child custody. For quite a few parents, agreeing to a child custody arrangement that both meets the expectations of each parent and serves the best interests of the child is fraught with tension and emotional and mental stress. So having a final child custody agreement or court order is, for many parents, the culmination of a difficult process.
Unfortunately, parents who are separated and have child custody agreements in place that dictate their custody and visitation schedules are facing challenges with the terms of their agreements or court orders because of the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Visitation and Parenting Time and COVID-19
When parents devise their child custody agreements or receive court orders for child custody, their custody agreements or orders contain the “rules” that both parents have to follow. The agreement or order stipulates who has custody of the child and when, and when visitation with the child can occur.
It wouldn’t be a surprise that COVID, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, seriously altered our ability to move freely. From mandatory quarantining to stay-at-home orders, this complicated some parents’ abilities to continue abiding by their previously agreed visitation and custody schedule. Parents sharing joint physical custody of their child have had to adjust their schedule for exchanging custody of the child.
Some parents have been able to make these adjustments on their own. But for many parents, the courts need to step in to resolve their disputes. This has added another layer of problems due to issues with the courts.
Communication with the Child
Since the beginning of the pandemic, so many of us have had to learn how to utilize electronic video applications like Zoom for the first time. It’s been a great way for us to stay connected virtually while being distanced. For separated parents, using video applications and more telephone calls have been among the ways to keep communication flowing between them and their children. Sometimes it’s been the only way a parent can see their child due to quarantining and exposure to the virus.
However, some parents’ child custody agreements or orders don’t address this type of communication between the parent and the child. Zoom and phone calls could be considered visitation time, and if the agreement or order doesn’t allow or account for that mode of communication or parenting time, it can cause serious disputes between parents.
The Effects of COVID on the Courts
Family courts are already some of the busiest courts in the country, and the same is true in Michigan. COVID has caused courts to close, which has led to further delay in resolving child custody disputes. So, if you and your child’s other parent have had issues with child custody, you may face significant delays when seeking a modification to your child custody agreement or order in court.
Let Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC Help with Your Child Custody Issues
The experienced Macomb County child custody lawyers at Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC are committed to helping families navigate the challenges of custody matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call us today at (586) 776-1700 to find out how we could assist you.