Family Law in a state of transformation
Each day the landscape of family law appears to be in a continual state of change as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Many parents are seeking parenting time during COVID-19 and legal advice from us at this time, to ensure that they are able to continue to see their children despite increasingly more restrictive policies being put in place to limit physical contact between households.
While many parents are able to self-isolate due to the suspension of work, there are numerous parties who continue to go out in public and work as a result of being employed in essential services. One of the greatest concerns to our existing clients and new client, is in relation to those who continue to work in public is the impact that their public presence will have in relation to parenting time with their children and more specifically those deemed to provide an “Essential Service”. Our law firm is here help inform and guide parents who continue to work outside of the home in relation to their specific rights within a post COVID-19 legal landscape.
The rights of parents who continue to work in public
The courts have established that where both parents make active efforts to self-isolate, follow the health guidelines set out by government, and make active efforts to avoid the risk of COVID-19, that in person parenting time should continue as per court orders or the status quo between parties and in a manner arranged by those parties’ lawyers.
The major question that arises from this is what happens when a parent must continue to work in public, and as a result is unable to self-isolate themselves. In the recent case of Zee v. Quon a father refused to return a child to the mother despite the existence of a court order, on the basis that the mother was at high risk of contracting COVID-19, as she was a health care professional at Sunnybrook Hospital. Despite the mother being unable to self-isolate, the court found that that this was an urgent matter, and that the child was to be immediately returned to her care.
The court found that while the mother was working in a field that exposed her to a greater risk of infection, that as a health care professional she understood all of the necessary precautions required to keep the children safe. As the mother was strictly following health guidelines and protocols, the public nature of her job did not create a safety issue that would warrant the suspension of her in person parenting time. What this means is that parents who continue to work in public should ensure that they are specifically following all of the required health protocols and regulations. Parties who ensure and can demonstrate a strict following of protocol will be able to reduce the risk of in person parenting time being replaced with FaceTime or phone access, even where their work involves direct interaction with the public.
At the present time our firm is working with both existing and potential new clients in regards to ensuring the continuation of parenting time of parents, including those who continue to work outside the home, during COVID-19. Our work is currently allowing for parents to continue to engage in access to their children while working both in and out of the home in a manner that is safe and sustainable in the current and ever changing environment that we all face as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
Our firm is here to assist you in regards to all of your needs, and can assist you in any negotiations you may need to resolve within your child custody and access disputes. Please call one of our Toronto Child Custody Lawyers and Toronto Divorce Lawyers today for a telephone consultation related to your matters.
Zee v. Quon, SCJ Court File No: FS-16-412436
Written by Adam Jaffer, Articling Student