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Over the last few weeks we have used our blog to share news about how COVID-19 is impacting the family courts in Ontario. The courts are currently only hearing urgent matters. The decision we’d like to discuss today is an excellent example of both the types of issues the courts are dealing with as well as how COVID-19 influences decisions.

Seeking a return from Utah

The motion was brought by the father, seeking the return of the parties’ son from Utah, where he was attending what the court described as “an educational and therapeutic program.” The child, who is 16-years-old, was placed in Utah earlier in the year under the mutual consent of his parents, who have shared joint custody of him since their separation in 2004.

The father brought the motion after alleging the mother agreed to return him to Canada on the condition that she assumes sole decision making on any health or education issues relating to the child. The father said he originally agreed to this proposal, but was under duress when he did so.

How COVID-19 adds context

The court noted that the evolving situation of COVID-19 plays an important role in influencing its decision. When the motion was served, the border was open but was about to close. In addition, an earthquake in Utah further reduced the ability to fly out of the state. The court cited spent no time discussing the agreement the parents had made. Instead, it focused on COVID-19 and travel restrictions it brought as the sole driver of its decision to return the child to Canada, writing “Given the current health concerns facing all of us, the imminent closure of the border between Canada and the United States and the recommendations of our health professionals and Government authorities regarding Canadian citizens out of the country, the relief requested by the applicant is granted in its entirety.”

In addition, the court ordered that the child self-quarantine for no less than two weeks upon his return. During this time he was to remain in the care of his father. However, the court wrote that upon the conclusion of the period of self-quarantine, the parents would be expected to make satisfactory arrangements for custody.

At Gelman Law, we understand that everyone is experiencing a difficult time. We are remaining open to help our clients, but are taking precautions to keep safety paramount. While we may not be able to meet in our office, we are fully prepared to continue to offer all of our legal services paperless and conduct important meetings using digital technology. Call us at (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-769-0737 or contact us online if you have a family law matter you need help with.

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