Self-isolation, quarantine and parental bonds
Throughout Ontario, most, if not all families are in some way doing their part to self-isolate in order to “stem the curve” of the COVID-19 virus. Parents at this time are doing their very best to ensure their children remain isolated, and government is attempting to ensure the safety of all, through rigorous self-isolation protocols and health guidelines. Anyone who has recently traveled or experienced cold or flu like symptoms must quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days, and those with no symptoms of any kind must continue to practice social distancing. For those families with court orders for parenting time, or those with previously existing status quo arrangements, the real question is how should parents treat these arrangements in light of recent health protocols?
COVID-19 and the Maximum Contact Principle
The courts have established that, as a general rule parties should continue to follow court orders related to parenting time, and status quo arrangements between parents. Some parents have recently come under fire by the courts due to so called “knee jerk reactions”, where one party has immediately decided to stop all parenting time during COVID-19. The courts have been clear that the facts of each case should be considered in light of the circumstances. However, as noted in Ribeiro v Wright, in person parenting time should continue where possible, and parents can and should make necessary but temporary changes to parenting agreements to ensure this can occur and where there are disputes lawyers should step in to resolve those disputes and provide alternatives that would allow both parents to continue to spend time with kids, on a modified arrangement and until the court provides direction on how new cases may come before it. All of these modifications stem from the overarching concept of the “maximum contact principle” which establishes that generally speaking, it is in the best interests of children to have the greatest possible contact with both parents. As noted by the court in the recent case of Douglas v. Douglas, parties, parties and their lawyers must attempt to ensure that parenting time continues in spite of these new societal concerns, and even in altered form as agreed to between parties and their family lawyers. The core concept here is openness, flexibility and communication between parents, and the avoidance of “knee jerk reactions” to COVID-19, such as the unilateral termination of access by one parent.
At the present time, our firm is working with both existing and potential new clients to ensure that parties are able to flexibly navigate their parenting arrangements, while also protecting the rights of concerned parents who have seen their parenting time unilaterally reduced or terminated during COVID-19. Our work is currently allowing for parents to continue exercising parenting time with their children in a way that is both safe and viable in the current and ever changing situation 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 Separation Lawyers and Toronto Divorce Lawyers today for a telephone consultation related to your matters.
Ribeiro v Wright, SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE, FAMILY COURT (HAMILTON) File #: 517/19
Douglas v. Douglas, SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE, Ontario, File #684/19
Written by Adam Jaffer, Articling Student at Separy Law PC.