My custody agreement said that we are to go to a week on/week off schedule, once school is out of session. The state has canceled all on-campus learning for the remainder of the year, but we still are doing schoolwork at home. Should we go to the one week on/one week off schedule now?
I am only licensed in Michigan, so my guidance is limited to that jurisdiction and based on observations from practicing in that state.
Generally, for a question like this, attorneys and the court would look to see what the current custody order has stated. However, most custody orders do not address what happens in this situation, because it is so novel. Attorneys did not foresee something like this. The key thing in a situation like this is how to describe “out of session.”
Your judgment or custody order may provide direction for that and identify that the edict goes by a specific school districts schedule, or provide some other guidance for when school is “out of session.”
If there is nothing in your custody order to provide guidance, then it is open for interpretation. While your child or children may not be attending in-person schooling, it is somewhat of a reach to say that school is “out of session.”
The location may have changed, and your children may be attending remotely, but the fact remains that your child or children still are responsible for attending school and completing schoolwork.
As schools are adjusting and modifying their lesson plans and schedules as the situation develops, it is important to keep an eye on whether they are modifying their schedules and end dates as well.
If your child’s school does completely close, or prematurely ends the school year, it is a much different argument. In that situation, it is clear that school is out of session, as they are not requiring students to do any schoolwork, even remotely.
Another issue with trying to switch the week on/week off schedule now is that if the other side does not consider school “out of session” then you would have to seek court involvement to force the issue.
The main problem with that is most courts still are closed and/or only hearing emergency motions, and this sort of issue would not qualify as an emergency. Even if you are able to secure a court date, with the end of the school year quickly approaching it may not be productive to escalate this matter to court for a little extra parenting time.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.