The courts for a variety of reasons may decide for a parent to initially have an order for supervised access with a child or children of a separated relationship. These reasons can include a lack of experience in caring for children, a substantial duration of time passing since a parent has cared for a child, or more serious concerns such as mental health issues, illicit drug or alcohol problems and dependencies, and safety concerns related to leaving a child alone in the care of a parent. Supervised access or parenting can also be ordered if there is merely an allegation of such issues by one parent against another.
Prior to COVID-19 the courts have typically relied upon supervised access to be facilitated by third parties such as family and friends or alternatively, supervised access centres, such as Access for Parents and Children in Ontario (“APCO”) or Brayden Supervision Centre. Problematically, as a result of COVID-19, the majority of supervised access centres, and the in-person services previously provided, are currently unavailable. For many parties, especially those who lack access to third parties willing to supervise access, and those unable to afford privatized supervision in the community, this has resulted an incredibly difficult situation in which it is not exactly clear how a parent is supposed to see their child during the ongoing pandemic. Our law firm, as always, is here to help.
Alternative Access or Parenting time during COVID-19
The courts have rapidly adapted to the issue of COVID-19 and the fact that supervised access at an access centre is no longer a viable option for many families. The recent case of Thibert v Thibert 2020 CarswellOnt 8441 (S.C.J.) dealt with a situation where a father was visiting his children at a publicly funded supervised access centre in accordance with a court order, when the centre was forced to close as a result of COVID-19. In this case, Justice Pomerance balanced the safety obligations of the children with the need for them to continue to have a relationship with their father, and requested that both parties suggest alternative solutions to the issue. The father would propose numerous family members and friends who were willing to supervise access, who had no criminal records. While the mother would reject these choices, she personally offered no alternative options, and as a result, an order was made for the father to be able to have access with the children under the supervision of these third parties. What this case stands for is the proposition that the courts will not allow in person access to be unilaterally terminated because of the closure of supervised access centres, and will actively seek from both parties’ creative solutions to ensure access can continue in a safe manner, while still allowing in person contact to occur whenever possible.
At the present time, our firm is working with both existing and potential new clients to ensure that parents are able to continue to engage in parenting time with their children despite the closure of supervised access centres in Ontario, in a way that is safe and viable in the current climate 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 access and parenting time disputes. Please call one of our Child Custody Lawyers Toronto today for a consultation related to your matters.
Thibert v Thibert 2020 CarswellOnt 8441 (S.C.J.)
Written by Adam Jaffer, Articling Student at Separy Law PC.