– By Jessica Morneau, Lawyer

During this global health crisis, many of our clients are rightly concerned about the health of their children.  They are coming to us with concerns regarding co-parenting arrangements and the potential impact of COVID-19 and want to ensure they are taking the necessary precautions.

Since the COVID-19 public health directives have been implemented, parents have also sought guidance and direction from the courts on how to deal with parenting time during the pandemic. The courts have thankfully responded and provided some guidance on parenting time during the pandemic.

The Ontario court determined that there is a presumption that existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue and only modified to a certain extent to ensure that the COVID-19 precautions are adhered to. This means that COVID-19 is not to be used as an excuse to withhold parenting. The courts may determine a suspension of parenting time is justified in certain circumstances but this is to be assessed on a case by case basis. It seems likely that unless there is a very good reason to depart from existing parenting arrangements, parents should try to work together and focus on the well-being of their children and themselves.

The court will look to assessing what is in the child’s best interest in determining whether parenting time should be suspended. The factors the BC court in court in S.R. v. M.G., 2020 BCPC 57 said it will consider are as follows:

  1. Whether the child is at an elevated risk of suffering the more severe consequences of the virus;
  2. Whether either party, or those in their household are at an elevated risk of suffering the more severe consequences of the virus;
  3. Each party’s exposure to the risk of contracting the virus;
  4. Steps taken by each party to mitigate the risk of exposure;
  5. All of the relevant factors listed under s. 37 of the Family Law Act, including:
    a. The child’s health and emotional well-being;
    b. The child’s views, where appropriate;
    c. The child’s relationship with each parent;
    d. The history of the child’s care;
    e. The child’s need for stability, given his age and stage of development;
    f. Each parent’s ability to exercise his or her parental responsibilities;
    g. The ability of each party to cooperate in parenting the child; and
  6. In the larger context, society’s need to maintain and access resources in the community, including health care and other ventures that provide services and income for families in a safe manner over an extended period of time.

One thing is clear, this is an unprecedented situation and proceeding with an urgent COVID-19 application regarding parenting time is an ever evolving area of law.  If you have any questions regarding proceeding with an Urgent COVID-19 parenting time application our family lawyers at Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers are available for consultations and advice.