The amount of COVID-19 cases in Ontario continues to increase. As of April 10th , there are more than 6,200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Province, with the majority of cases in the Greater Toronto Area – Global News
Since this pandemic began, the Canadian Government has been urging Canadians to do one thing: stay home. But for many Canadian children with separated parents, this is not practicable, as those families likely have an existing agreement or court order specifying the duration and frequency of each parents’ time with the children.
Many separated parents may be tempted to interfere with the existing parenting arrangements amid COVID-19, citing safety concerns as the rationale, but the courts in Ontario have been pointedly clear that this is not appropriate. Worse, if a parent does unilaterally alter the child(ren)’s schedule with the other parent, the Courts have been clear that there may be consequences for that parent once regular court operations resume – Canlii
According to Justice Pazaratz of the Ontario Superior Court – Canlii, existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue in the majority of cases, while potentially making changes to transportation or exchange locations to ensure physical distancing guidelines are followed – Global News
If an issue does arise with respect to the existing parenting arrangements, such that it is no longer safe to facilitate parenting-time between your child and your ex, you may meet the test for “urgency”, which would allow your matter to be put before a Judge. In order for your matter to be considered “urgent”, based on the jurisprudence to date in this unprecedented area:
- Your concern must be immediate, meaning that in no circumstances could it wait for resolution at a later date;
- Your concern must be serious enough in that it significantly affects the health, safety or economic well-being of you, your ex and/or your children; and
- Your concern has to be rooted in real evidence. It cannot be speculative or theoretical.
If your matter is not urgent, the Courts are encouraging parents, now more than ever, to work together to show flexibility, creativity and common sense — to promote both the physical and emotional well-being of children. Children always need the love, guidance and emotional support of both of their parents, but they need it even more during these unprecedented, troubling and scary times – Canlii
If one parent is self-quarantined after travel or possible exposure to the virus, and direct physical contact with his/her child is therefore inappropriate at this time, it is important that parents work together to ensure that a child’s relationship with that parent is not negatively affected in any way. Various communication outlets such as Facetime, Zoom, Skype, etc. can help with that and your willingness to engage your child(ren) in these types of video chats demonstrates your ability to support and encourage your child(ren)’s relationship with their other parent and act in accordance with your child(ren)’s best interests.
For more information on these issues, as well as information as to how COVID-19 affects child and spousal support, listen to episodes 45, 46 and 47 of the Ontario Family Law Podcast by John Schuman, Certified Specialist in Family Law and managing partner of the Family Law Group at Devry Smith Frank LLP – Devry Law Podcasts