COVID-19 has canceled, or at the very least, put many people’s summer plans on hold. For parents who are divorced or separated, it may be that fears over the health of their children have led to disagreements over what pone parents should or should not be doing with their children. In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the court issued a ruling on whether or not a father could bring a child to a cottage in Ontario.
The parents were married in 2007. They had a child in 2010, and separated five years later in 2015. The parents have been following a parenting order since November 2018. Both parents share joint decision making and parenting time, with the child living with each parent on alternate weeks.
Part of the alternate weeks arrangement is that each parent can have a vacation with the child for up to 10 consecutive days each week until he is 11 years old, where that time period will be extended to 14 days. The order stipulates that neither party can object to the other parent’s reasonable plans with the child, but that the other parent must ensure the safety and security of the child and not endanger his health.
The parents appeared before the court after the mother brought an urgent motion asking the court to prevent the father from taking the child to a cottage with his paternal grandparents, paternal aunt, and cousin during the COVID-19 crisis.
The mother argued that the father failed to properly consider the health risks of his summer holiday plan. She labeled the cottage trip as a “selfish and unnecessary risk” according to the court. The mother pointed out that the seven family members planning to visit come from three different parts of the province and could not constitute a social circle within the established provincial guidelines. Secondly, there had been a recent outbreak in one of the areas being traveled from. Thirdly, if the group is not a social circle, self-isolation would be impossible at the cottage, and finally, she stated that her asthma puts her in a compromised position if she were to get COVID-19.
The father said that he would never do anything to harm the child, and that his plan to merge his social bubble with his parents and sister was within public health guidelines. The father added that the cottage has plenty of rooms, bathrooms for each of the groups, and that travel outside of the cottage would not be necessary.
The court found that it was not within the child’s best interests to visit the cottage. The court disagreed with the father’s position that it is safe to create a larger bubble with his family. The court stated that each family could only have one social circle, and the court had no way of knowing who the grandparents and aunt/cousin were seeing in their own parts of the province. Additionally, the mother is part of the father’s social circle, and she had a reasonable objection to the circle being expanded.
The court noted that each parent has been keeping the health of their child in mind, and that the situation is rapidly changing. Nevertheless, at the time of the hearing, the court did not find the father’s plans to be suitable.
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. We 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.