Parenting & Access during COVID-19
The COVID-19 virus is causing significant confusion and worry. Currently, courts across Ontario are closed to all matters except the most serious of cases such as child abduction. It is therefore important for parents to work together to look out for the best interests of their children in a collaborative and cooperative manner.
On March 24, 2020, Justice Pazaratz of the Superior Family Court, Family division, issued a decision regarding access schedules. This decision is now being used as a precedent for considering urgent motion applications related to access issues.
I will summarize the important parts of the decision below and I expect that my clients will follow these instructions:
Children’s lives cannot be placed on hold without risking serious emotional harm and upset. Therefore, a blanket policy that children should not leave their primary residence is not in the best interests of the child.
Parents must act responsibly.
Existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue – with the exception of mandatory quarantine for a 14-day period following recent travel outside of Canada; personal illness or exposure to illness.
It is not enough to assume that another parent will not take social distancing seriously.
However, there will be zero tolerance for any parent who recklessly exposes any child to any COVID-19 risk.
Exchanges should be done as safely as possible with social distancing in mind. An exchange at a Costco (for example) is not safe.
Parents and lawyers must both recognize that urgent parenting issues will be considered on a case by case basis and that COVID-19 will not automatically result in suspension of in-person parenting time.
Children need all of the adults in their lives to behave in a cooperative, responsible and mature manner.
Children need more cooperation and less litigation.
Please do your best to follow these guidelines. Family law cases that are open will resume but it may be several months before that happens.
It's also a good time to review your estate plans if you do not have a power of attorney or will in place, you may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to assist you with executing those documents.
Please be safe and take care.