Court Ruling - COVID does not override COs
In the Ontario court we have already had our first challenge on Court Ordered visitation vs Government ordered COVID measures. The summary. Mom and Dad have joint custody with Mom having primary and Dad having alternate weekends.
d. The mother has brought an urgent motion to suspend all in-person access because of COVID-19.
e. The mother expresses concern that the father will not maintain social distancing for the child during periods of access.
f. In any event, the mother says she and her family are practicing social isolation in their home for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. She doesn’t want her son leaving the home for any reason – including seeing the father.
The judge refused to order a change or entertain the motion saying:
On the one hand, in this case there is an existing parenting order. There is a presumption that all orders should be respected and complied with. More to the point, there is a presumption that the existing order reflects a determination that meaningful personal contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child.
8 On the other hand, the well-publicized directives from government and public health officials make it clear that we are in extraordinary times; and that our daily routines and activities will for the most part have to be suspended, in favour of a strict policy of social distancing and limiting community interactions as much as possible.
9 Parents are understandably confused and worried about what to do. Similarly, this is uncharted territory for our court system. We all have to work together to show flexibility, creativity and common sense – to promote both the physical and emotional well-being of children.
10 None of us know how long this crisis is going to last. In many respects we are going to have to put our lives “on hold” until COVID-19 is resolved. But children’s lives – and vitally important family relationships – cannot be placed “on hold” indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset. A blanket policy that children should never leave their primary residence – even to visit their other parent – is inconsistent with a comprehensive analysis of the best interests of the child. In troubling and disorienting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents, now more than ever.
11 In most situations there should be a presumption that existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue, subject to whatever modifications may be necessary to ensure that all COVID-19 precautions are adhered to – including strict social distancing.
But no matter how difficult the challenge, for the sake of the child we have to find ways to maintain important parental relationships – and above all, we have to find ways to do it safely.
20 If a parent has a concern that COVID-19 creates an urgent issue in relation to a parenting arrangement, they may initiate an emergency motion – but they should not presume that the existence of the COVID-19 crisis will automatically result in a suspension of in-person parenting time. They should not even presume that raising COVID-19 considerations will necessarily result in an urgent hearing.
21 We will deal with COVID-19 parenting issues on a case-by-case basis.
So the decision of the Ontario courts at least - do not be reckless in endangering your children. AND.... Children need the physical presence of both parents in cases of disorienting times. Find the best way to do it safely, or come back to the court with very specific examples of why it cannot possibly be safely. Becuase the courts have decided that kids need both parents, especially in times of crisis. It's up to the parents to figure out how to make it safe.