Parent access during COVID-19
Updated: Apr 9, 2020
Should you restrict access if you are concerned that the other parent is not following COVID-19 precautions?
Where there is an existing access order but parents have immediate concerns about the health or safety of their children during access visits, they may try to bring an urgent motion before the court to vary the custody or access arrangement.
Current state of access during COVID-19
Since mid-March the court has suspended regular operations due to the risks of COVID-19 and is only hearing the most urgent matters. As the provincial government imposes increasingly strict social distancing measures, parents may believe that withholding access until the pandemic subsides or until the next court appearance is in the child’s best interests.
The court may not agree. The caselaw on custody and access in the time of COVID-19, although nascent, indicates that existing parenting arrangements should continue, “subject to whatever modifications may be necessary to ensure that COVID-19 precautions are adhered to including strict social distancing:” Ribeiro v Wright.
Existing access orders
Where there is an existing access order but parents have immediate concerns about the health or safety of their children during access visits, they may try to bring an urgent motion before the court to vary the custody or access arrangement. However, the test for what constitutes urgency is high. Parents must prove that there is a serious threat of harm to their children that cannot wait and requires immediate intervention. If their concerns are only speculative and unsupported by clear evidence of an immediate danger to their children, the matter will not be deemed urgent. Parents must also demonstrate that they engaged in settlement discussions with the other parent and tried to come to a short-term agreement before appearing in court. If parents are unable to satisfy these requirements, the existing parenting arrangement will likely remain in place.
Access issues are evolving
The law on custody and access issues during the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly emerging and is subject to change as the policies related to the pandemic evolve. The circumstances of each family are unique, and the court urges parents to communicate in good faith and come up with arrangements that demonstrate COVID-19 awareness and parental insight of their children’s best interests.
Be in the know
If you are unsure whether your matter is urgent or you have concerns about your child’s welfare because the other parent is not adhering to social distancing protocols or other COVID-19 precautions, contact Lenkinski, Carr & Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org .