With a second wave of Covid-19 on the rise, it’s natural that stress levels amongst family members may be higher than usual. This is especially applicable to parents who are divorced or separated. As restrictions in many parts of the country have loosened, parents may not agree on the best way to protect the health of their children. In a recent case heard before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court was asked to determine whether the father’s social circle was too large.
The parents were married in December 2012 and separated just over six years later in early 2019. They had two children while married. Since the separation the children have lived primarily with the mother. The mother’s application asked for her to be formally granted primary care.
One of the reasons for this request is that the mother stated she had concerns about the father’s care of the children. She told the court he has a history of unreliability and irresponsibility, including incorrectly installing car seats, accepting video calls while driving, and not properly fencing his pool. However, the mother’s primary complains was that the father had not been following Covid-19 protocols. The mother alleged, and the father admitted, that he had introduced the children to his new partner and her two children.
The mother stated this is a major concern because she and the children are in regular contact with the children’s maternal grandfather, who is 77-years-old and has a “complex and involved medical history that puts him at a very high risk of a bad outcome should he develop a COVID-19 infection.” The mother added some context, explaining her father suffers from severe asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and was recovering from recent cancer treatments.
The mother requested that the court limit the children’s social circle to her, the father, and the maternal grandparents.
The father said that he has been compliant with the province’s social circle guidelines. Instead, the father stated the mother was trying to prevent him from seeing his girlfriend and her family. He said the mother was demonstrating strange behavior around his girlfriend, including showing up at her residence or workplace, investigating her private life, and other actions.
The court found that the father has not complied with the province’s Social Circle guidelines. He did not identify his girlfriend’s name to the mother or ask the mother for her agreement to introduce the children to the girlfriend and her children. However, the court also said that the father’s concerns about the mother have some merit. There was also a lack of evidence about how often the children interact with their maternal grandparents.
Ultimately, though, the court focused on the father’s failure to abide by the general public health recommendations. Even though there was no evidence of a medical concern on the part of the children, the court ordered that the children’s social circle be limited as per the mother’s request, and that the mother shall have primary care responsibility for the children, though both parents will share decision-making responsibilities.
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. Lex Arbesman has been helping clients in Toronto since 1953, providing 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.