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Governor Whitmer recently issued a 63-page roadmap on how to return students to school in the fall of 2020 with recommendations and requirements for implementation according to what phase of safety a particular region is in. The southwest region of the state is currently in level 4 but a pushback to level 3 is looming if the number of new cases does not decrease. Schools are actively planning how to address the new year and the governor’s plan provides both detailed mandates and suggested best practices.

Her plan has six phases and in phases 1-3, there is no physical return to school in the immediate future. All instruction would be remote, requiring school districts to ensure that every student has the technology to interface with their class via the internet. Phases 4-6 implement varying levels of precautions, mandatory and recommended, for face-to-face instruction. These precautions range the gamut of school activities. In phase 4, the requirements are for daily temperature takings from home, requiring face coverings of all students medically capable and over the age of 5, and prohibiting indoor weight conditioning of student athletes, to name a few. In phase 5, the requirements are scaled back to recommended and strongly recommended. In this section, there is further discussion of how to safely return students to in-person education. Phase 6 is incredibly brief on its instruction and denotes its operations as post-pandemic, providing only that “safety protocols are no longer required” in a significant proportion of the areas discussed.  

Adding to the complications of how remote instruction might work, or what additional supplies children will require to attend school this fall, are the issues of parenting time and custody under the aegis of COVID-19. Back to school and all it entails can be overwhelming when parents are cooperating and there is no dispute over who will be picking the children up from soccer or band practice. Add a new or ongoing conflict of what the best interests of the children are and one might quickly decide there are no answers. At Arnson VanTol Law, PLC, we have the experience and answers you need when faced with the new challenges this schoolyear brings. When you are uncertain what your next best steps are, call us.

Filing for Divorce: 4 Things A Great Attorney Must Keep In Mind

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  1. Tailor the representation to the client. All cases are different and can include child custody, alimony/ spousal support, division of a business, division of a marital home, retirement assets or other important assets, child support, hidden assets, infidelity, domestic violence, many other important issues, or not.  In some cases, all these issues may be a priority, maybe none of them, or some of them.  In some cases, the client is more concerned with getting the matter over as quickly as possible, in others may be less so.  Early in the case, a great attorney asks the difficult, directed questions that are needed to determine what is important to the client so that the attorney can tailor the representation to the client. 
  2. Court analysis.  Not all courts are the same.  Kent is different from Ottawa, which is different from Kalamazoo, Allegan, Mecosta, and so forth.  What are the specific filing requirements, judicial tendencies, and Friend of the Court procedures that are going to affect the client?  A great attorney knows or will investigate what needs to be done to be successful in each particular judicial environment and will advise the client on what to expect when they have involvement with the court. 
  3. Getting the case started the right way.  Some clients need court intervention right away and need their attorney to file petitions for temporary relief and sometimes emergency relief.  Other clients do not necessarily need or want court intervention right away and need an approach that resolves their matter out of court.  A great attorney tailors the representation to their client and finds a way to start the case in a way that bests suits the client’s needs and preferences.
  4. Trial preparation.  Not every case can be settled early on because some future ex-wives are completely unreasonable or there are issues that cannot be compromised.  In those cases, the best attorneys start preparing early for trial.  Trials require a significant amount of work including strategy development and refinement and evidence gathering and reviewing.  A great attorney starts early so that strategy and evidence is ready to go and is as persuasive as possible.

The ADAM attorneys at Shaw Law Group are great attorneys and work hard to tailor their representation to Men in West Michigan.  Call or email to speak to one of them if you need help with a divorce or custody matter.

Ivan E. Shaw

Arnson VanTol Law, PLC
77 Monroe Center, NW, Suite 507
Grand Rapids, MI  49503
616 281-2600

Michigan Court of Appeals Defines “Domestic Violence” in Custody Cases

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It is not uncommon for the term “domestic violence” to get tossed around in divorce or custody cases.  What is or what is not domestic violence means different things to different people. In a recently published case, Brown v Brown, the Michigan Court of Appeals considered domestic violence as it relates to child custody, and the term was defined in an expansive way which may be surprising to many. In light of this case, anyone who has been accused of domestic violence or believes they or their children are victims of domestic violence should be aware of it. Here are some of the highlights.

The facts in Brown involved a parent who used excessive corporal punishment that left the children with bruises or red marks. Additionally, the parent used physical punishment on the family pets in front of the children. Even though it is not defined in the child custody act, “domestic violence” is a factor that trial courts must consider when reviewing custody disputes. It is generally inappropriate for the court to use the definition of a term from one statute or law in an unrelated statute or law; however, the court here decided to use the definition of “domestic violence” from the Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Act, while also declining to use the definition under the Michigan Penal Code. Therefore, domestic violence under the Child Custody Act is now defined as follows:

The occurrence of any of the following acts by a person that is not an act of self-defense:

(a) Causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to a family member or household member.

(b) Placing a family or household member in fear of physical or mental harm.

(c) Causing or attempting to cause a family or household member to engage in involuntary sexual activity by force, threat of force, or duress.

(d) engaging in activity toward a family or household member that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.

And, “family or household member” includes (1) a spouse or former spouse; (2) and individual with whom the person resides or has resided; (3) an individual with whom the person has or has had a dating relationship; (4) an individual with whom the person is or has engaged in a sexual relationship; (5) an individual to whom the person is related or was formerly related by marriage; (6) an individual with whom the person has a child in common; (7) the minor child of an individual described in paragraphs (1) to (6).

The two most surprising elements of this expansive definition of domestic violence are that first, it specifically includes minor children (and can potentially include numerous relatives and their children). Abuse of children was thought to be covered in other factors within the Child Custody Act, but now should be considered under the domestic violence factor as well. Second, the court determined that while abuse of pets is not domestic abuse, harm to an animal with whom a person is emotionally bonded could arise to domestic violence against that person.

In many cases involving abuse of children, judges act quickly when evidence of abuse is obvious. However, some in cases it can be more difficult to determine whether abuse occurred, like accidents or use of physical punishment, for example. While parents do have a right to use physical discipline against their children, it is clear that it is disfavored by many courts and parenting authorities. Therefore, if a parent decides to administer physical discipline, the discipline must not be excessive, nor should the discipline harm the child. The facts may not always be as obvious to the court as they were in Brown, however, the existence of domestic violence against spouses or children can certainly influence a custody case.   

4 Tips on Summer Parenting Time

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Most summer parenting time orders are part of a divorce or custody arrangement. To make your summer parenting time -goes smoothly, try the following:

  1. Make sure you know when your summer parenting time starts. Many are based on your child’s school district’s calendar year. Remember to keep an eye on events during the year that can impact end date such as snow days and this year COVID-19 and check your email from your school district and school so that you have current information.  Once you know when your time starts, you can plan for your travel, childcare, vacations, and other plans accordingly.  This year, due to COVID -19, our courts have specified that summer parenting time begins the week school would have went on summer break. In other words, treat 2020 normally, even though no schools are meeting face to face.
  2. Second, make sure you are aware of deadlines. The most important deadlines are any contained in your court order. For example, it could specify when you need to let the other parent know about your vacation preferences. Most summer parenting time orders - state something like: “the father will notify the mother before May 20 of the weeks in summer which are his scheduled weeks. If there is a conflict between the parents, then in even years, the father’s preference is followed, and in odd years, then the mother’s preference is followed.”   There are also deadlines around making reservations for travel or lodging, camps, and childcare. It is best to keep all these deadlines in mind then suggest your weeks, and then make plans.  .
  3. Verify that in writing the details you are required to with the other parent. Confirmation, verification and disclosure requirements vary from case to case. Most of the time a simple email can do the trick. For example: Hey, just a heads up that I got the hotel for July 9, which is my week with the kids. I am pretty sure we agreed to this a few weeks ago, I just wanted to let you know it is reserved. Email me back as soon as possible if you have any objection. If there are other people such as your attorney, your co-parent’s attorney, a GAL, or other person that needs to be aware of your plans, remember to include them in your email.
  4. Get more time if you need more time. If you are planning your summer and you do not have enough time to do all the things you want to do, consider asking for more time. Your co-parent has the power to agree to more time and that is probably the best place to start.  If you are not interested in discussing it with your co-parent or they say no, you should consider asking the court.

The ADAM attorneys at Shaw Law Group can help you enforce your current summer parenting time order, assess whether you should be asking for more summer parenting time, or go to court to get more summer parenting time.  Contact us if we can help.

Arnson VanTol Law, PLC

As soon as you know you are facing a divorce or a criminal charge, you should seek competent counsel immediately. It may only require a quick call to an experienced lawyer at Arnson VanTol Law, PLC at (616) 827-ADAM (2326). Our attorneys focus on men's rights, and can help you determine if there are steps that you should take right away to protect your interests in any family law or criminal matter.

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Grand Rapids 
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Grand Rapids, MI 49534

(616) 827-ADAM (2326)

5955 W. Main
Kalamazoo, MI 49009

(269) 301-2326