Over the last few weeks, we have been writing about how COVID-19 is impacting the judicial system in Ontario, including reduced operations with the exceptions of urgent matters. Today we’d like to take a look at a recently issued decision that serves to highlight how seriously the courts are taking COVID-19 and how it is impacting decisions related to custody.
The decision was reported on by the Financial Post, which explained that the parties separated in August 2018 and entered into a “nesting” parenting arrangement in which the three children (aged 11, 13, and 17) stayed in the family home and the parents took turns living there on a weekly rotation.
Once the COVID-19 crisis took root, the parties decided to both stay in the home and suspended their nesting arrangement.
One of the factors that would come to impact the situation was health of the family. Two of the children suffer from asthma, while the mother is on long-term disability due to a myriad of issues, including lupus, Sjorgren’s syndrome, fibromyalgia, and asthma. As a result of these medical issues, she has a compromised immune system. The story reports that the mother was concerned that the father was not following the COVID-19 protocols recommended by health officials. She told the court he was not upfront with her about his whereabouts when he left the house and that he wasn’t honest about his handwashing.
The father said he was abiding by the protocols, even though he was spending time with his girlfriend, who he said was practicing social distancing.
The mother brought a motion to have sole possession of the family home during the COVID-19 crisis. This would obviously have a significant impact on the parties’ parenting arrangement.
According to the story, the court agreed that the father’s behavior was problematic. The judge believed the mother’s statements about the father not taking physical distancing as seriously as he needed to, writing “this order is made due to the father not taking the increased risk to the mother and children seriously.”
The order is temporary in nature. The father will be able to bring the motion back before the court, but not until April 17 at the earliest.
If you are contemplating a separation, or are already in the process, and there are children involved, your first step should be to consult with a family lawyer who has experience with custody and access matters. NULaw and its predecessors have been helping clients in Toronto since 1953. Our lawyers provide clear, practical advice so that clients can make informed decisions about their parental rights. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.