Making big decisions as co-parents is difficult and complicated. Doing so during a global pandemic makes the stakes that much higher. With the 2020 school year quickly approaching, parents are likely facing a decision never presented before in history: Should I send my child to school for in-person learning or keep them home for remote learning via Zoom? Obviously, you do not have to be divorced for this to be contentious and controversial. Undoubtedly, millions of parents, married or otherwise, will have differing thoughts and views on this subject.
That said, what happens when co-parents who share joint legal custody differ on remote learning for the new academic year?
Joint legal custody means “parents share decision-making authority on important decisions affecting the child’s welfare.” Michigan Family Law Benchbook. Clearly, the type of schooling (remote learning or otherwise) during this time qualifies as an “important decision affecting the child’s welfare.” If you and your co-parent are on the same page, or you live in areas like San Diego or Los Angeles where just this week it was announced that schools will be exclusively remote beginning in the fall, you can stop reading now and go back to something more entertaining and enjoyable.
What happens if you want your child to participate in remote learning via Zoom and your co-parent believes a child should be physically in school this fall?
Neither one of you should act unilaterally. While you both surely believe you have the best interests of your child in mind and are doing what is best for them, your opinions and beliefs alone do not matter more than your co-parent. Hopefully, as we get closer to the school year, we will get more guidance from local and national government officials as well as doctors and scientists. If you have questions, seeking out recommendations and information from your child’s pediatrician would be a good place to start.
Michigan divorce law provides if parents cannot agree on a major decision regarding a child, such as remote learning, the court can intervene and conduct a hearing to decide the issue. The hearing is called a Lombardo hearing, named after another case. A Judge will hear arguments from both parents and make the final decision. The seminal case on choice of school issues is Pierron v. Pierron and we have you covered with the nitty gritty details on how the process works.
Michigan Choice of School Law Video
If you and your co-parent fundamentally disagree on this matter, you should consult with a family attorney before things escalate and get out of hand. Most issues like this can be resolved informally between parents or, if necessary, lawyers. We are here to review the terms of your custody and parenting time arrangements with you and outline the rights that come with it. If an agreement cannot be reached, parents and lawyers will be filing motions and seeking recommendations and decisions from courts and the Friend of the Court. That said, you must remember, this is an unprecedented situation and lawyers, judges and referees are not medical experts.
The last five months have changed our lives and made parenting even more challenging. You have a lot on your plate. If you have strong feelings on this subject, discuss it with your co-parent and see where you agree and disagree. We hope you can come to a comfortable and acceptable resolution amongst yourselves. But, if you have any questions or are unable to come to an agreement, we are always here to provide guidance, information and assist you during these turbulent times.
About Findling Law
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
By: Daniel Findling and Max Emmer