A MESSAGE FROM AAML and AFCC
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Leaders from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and AFCC have released guidelines for coparenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorce/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic
From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis:
Susan Myres, President of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)
Dr. Matt Sullivan, President of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
Annette Burns, AAML and Former President of AFCC
Yasmine Mehmet, AAML
Kim Bonuomo, AAML
Nancy Kellman, AAML
Dr. Leslie Drozd, AFCC
Dr. Robin Deutsch, AFCC
Jill Peña, Executive Director of AAML
Peter Salem, Executive Director of AFCC
1. BE HEALTHY.
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.
2. BE MINDFUL.
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.
4. BE CREATIVE.
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.
5. BE TRANSPARENT.
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.
6. BE GENEROUS.
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.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
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.
See more Coronavirus Resources and Information for family law professionals.
Excerpt from original news release:
With schools closed and courthouses limiting operations to reduce exposure to COVID-19, parents who live apart might be confused about changing family situations and their court 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.
Click to Read the Full Release
Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon (NSSS&B), a family law and estate planning firm based in Ann Arbor, recently added two new associate attorneys.
Miriam Saffo earned her law degree from Michigan State University and her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago. During her law studies, she worked for Ingham County courts in many roles, including Friend of the Court cases involving child custody, support, and parenting time.
Erin C. Flynn worked for a Northville family law firm before joining NSSS&B. Her experience includes internships with the Family Law Division of Macomb Circuit Court and with the Family Law Assistance Project in Auburn Hills, which provides legal services to low-income clients.
Founded in 1994, NSSS&B serves clients in Washtenaw, Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, Livingston and Lenawee counties. The firm has long been an advocate for mediation and other non-adversarial approaches to resolving family matters. Specialty practice areas include divorce, child custody/support, spousal support, property settlement, same sex marriage, prenuptial agreements, estate planning, and probate and trust administration.
Mara Kent presented "End of Life Care and Treatment," a Seminar for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education on June 3, 2019.
Mara Kent presented at the Ann Arbor Cable TV "Leave A Legacy" Campaign on May 22, 2019
Eileen Slank attended the 59th Annual Probate & Estate Panning Institute in Traverse City in May, 2019.
Monika Sacks was recognized as part of the inaugural Michigan Lawyers Weekly Hall of Fame Class of 2019. The program recognizes Michigan legal leaders over the age of 60 for their notable success and demonstration of strong leadership both within and outside of their chosen field. The entire firm joined in honoring Monika at the May 30th Hall of Fame luncheon.
Congratulations to Lori Buiteweg for being chosen on behalf of Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of the 30 distinguished lawyers honored for reputable work and success in the legal community at the 2017 Leaders in the Law award ceremony.
Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach & Buiteweg was named to the State Bar of Michigan 2017 Circle of Excellence at the Leadership Level.
Lori Buiteweg is ranked among the top 50 women Super Lawyers in Michigan.