As the world continues to face the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, parents are expected to make cooperative efforts to incorporate mandated and recommended safety protocols into an existing parenting schedule, often outlined in a Separation Agreement or Court Order. However, this expectation is creating a sense of stress, uncertainty, and ultimately conflict among parents when it comes to either choosing to follow or deviate from their respective parenting schedules during COVID-19. To add to this complexity, the courts are currently only hearing “urgent” family applications, meaning that should the conflict escalate, a parent cannot necessarily seek the court’s immediate assistance surrounding parenting issues, let alone parenting issues arising from COVID-19. While recent case law has outlined what situations the courts may consider urgent (see Ribeiro v Wright, 2020 ONSC 1829), parents are strongly encouraged to work together, whether that be independently, or with the assistance of counsel, a mediator or other third-party professional, in order to address and resolve any parenting issues that may arise during this pandemic.

When considering the potential relaxation and/or lifting of safety restrictions in the near future, as well as anticipating a possible second wave or resurgence of COVID-19 in the coming months, in an effort to avoid future parenting disputes, parents are encouraged to:

  1. Stay informed about up-to-date safety protocols and restrictions as recommended by both the Federal and Provincial Governments.
  2. Presume that the other parent will follow and adhere to all mandated and recommended safety protocols, as these protocols are in the best interests of the children.
  3. Be transparent about what safety measures have been implemented in your respective households, as well as any associated concerns you may have regarding the same.
  4. Incorporate comparable safety measures in both households in order to provide for greater consistency.
  5. Be reminded that any existing court Order or formalized Agreement remains in force, and parents are expected to continue to follow that existing and outlined parenting schedule, unless any temporary changes are mutually agreed to by the parties.
  6. Be flexible and understanding with respect to accommodating any potential adjustments to the current parenting schedule as they same may promote and/or allow for greater adherence to safety protocols.

While COVID-19 will continue to create a degree of uncertainty and disruption when it comes to co-parenting, separated and/or divorced parents should always make parenting decisions that are in the best interests of the child.

If you have questions or would like to discuss parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic in greater detail, please contact Wells Family Law and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.