Resources & Insights

Parenting Agreements, Social Circles and COVID-19

When the province asked us all to stay home as much as possible and physical distance, we started to get a lot of questions from separated parents as to how to ensure the safety of their children when they are with the other parent. This created a unique opportunity for parents to cooperate and enter into agreements as to what they would do to ensure their children’s safety during COVID-19. We saw many agreements between parents which included terms for physical distancing, sanitizing their home and regular hand-washing. By entering these agreements, separated parents were able to manage expectations and maintain positive co-parenting relationships. So many separated parents should be applauded for their willingness to work together during this difficult time.

With the province opening up, this is a great time to return to these Agreements and agree to new terms. Some provinces, such as Alberta, allowed “bubbling arrangements” early on, which provided that two families could pair up exclusively for help with child care.[1] The province of Ontario has now made an announcement that allows Ontarians to build “social circles” of up to 10 people.[2] Using Alberta and other provinces as an example, compliance with provincial recommendations regarding “bubbles” or “social circles” will be necessary if we wish to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Ontario’s move to allow social circles is another opportunity for separated parents to work together in the best interests of their children. In order to comply with the province’s guidelines, separated parents should be having discussions about building their children’s social circles. The province has made these recommendations with respect to building social circles:

• Start with your current circle: the people you live with or who regularly come into
   your household.
• Step 2: If your current circle is under 10 people, you can add members to your circle,
   including another household, family members or friends.
• Step 3: Get agreement from everyone that they will join the circle.
• Step 4: Keep your social circle safe. Maintain physical distancing with anyone outside
   of your circle.
• Step 5: Be true to your social circle. No one should be part of more than one circle.

This has been a truly exceptional time and COVID-19 Parenting Agreements have assisted separated parents in being clear about expectations to avoid conflict. With Ontario gradually opening up, parents will need to continue to cooperate and be willing to enter agreements to ensure that their children remain safe and healthy.

Nadine Finbow, Associate