PARENTING AND ACCESS DURING COVID-19 SITUATION
With the current unprecedented situation of Covid-19, we often receive calls and emails from one parent who is concerned about the other parent not taking proper precautions to protect their children from the virus.
It could be that the one parent has an increased risk of exposure because they’re still going in to work, or attending social functions or they have other stepchildren travelling between families exposing higher risk of severe outcomes from the disease.
While there isn’t one easy answer and every family’s case is different, there is a recent decision by the Ontario Superior Court providing guidelines on how lawyers should advise their clients in the current health crisis.
According to the court decision, there should be the presumption that existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue and that both parents should take the necessary precautions to ensure they’re adhering to public health guidelines, such as physical distancing.
If you have another parent who you think is not following the guidelines, now’s the time to have detailed discussions about your concerns and what you both can do to address the situation. It is not about individual parenting, but the discussion must be focussed more on health and safety of the children.
Parents may not be entirely happy with the new modified arrangement during this period, but it’s still better to come up with a temporary workaround than to take the other parent to court.
For two parents who aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, this is the time to keep their differences on a side burner and try and put themselves in the shoes of the other parent to understand and come up with a solution.
We would stress that parents should strive to ensure that their children are able to see both parents during this time because it’s still unknown how long the pandemic could last. It could be harmful for the child if they’re unable to see another parent for an extended period.
Now since the courts are closed, and only urgent matters are being heard, families may have difficulty scheduling a hearing before a judge. If the parents are struggling to come to an agreement, use the services of mediation, four-way meeting with their respective lawyers, via telephone or video conference to help them come up with a solution.
For more information, please read the judgment granted by the Superior court of Justice, Family Court, Ontario on Riberiro v. Wright