COVID-19: Front-Line Workers and Child Custody.
For many parents, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges: childcare, homeschooling and finding activities to keep children entertained are just a few examples. For some, there is also the added challenge of co-parenting. In many cases, separated parents should be commended for cooperating and working together in order to ensure their children continue to spend time with both family units; but, what happens when one parent is a front-line health care worker, and the other parent feels the children are no longer safe going into that parent’s care? That is exactly what happened in two recent cases: one in British Columbia and one in Ontario. In both cases, each respective Court was asked to determine that exact question.
In the British Columbia case, Mom was a licensed nurse who had cared for a patient with COVID-19, causing Dad to grow concerned that their 8-year old son was no longer safe in Mom’s care. The Court disagreed and ordered that Mom should continue to have parenting time with the parties’ son. Several factors were weighed in the Court’s decision, including the care mom took to prevent infection and the spread of the virus. The Court commented that it expected the parties to continue to discuss and assess their risk factors as they had done in the past.
In the Ontario case, Dad withheld the parties’ child as Mom worked as a physiotherapist at a busy hospital in Toronto. Mom sought urgent relief and the Court agreed that Mom’s parenting time should be reinstated. In the decision, the Court agreed that Dad’s concerns were understandable but that it was not in the best interests of the child to stay away from Mom. The Court further remarked that Mom and her employer were both well aware of the protocols to prevent transmission of infection.
From both cases it is clear that Courts are signaling that even in situations where parents are front-line health care workers, if parents can show they are abiding by COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations, barring exceptional circumstances, children should continue to enjoy the parenting schedules that they did before COVID-19.
If you have concerns or specific questions regarding parenting schedules during COVID-19, Barriston can help. Give us a call or send us an electronic inquiry.
*More details about the British Columbia case can be found in this CBC news article.
Nadine Finbow, Associate