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We’ve been spending the holidays blogging about importance considerations for parents during the holiday season. Last week we blogged about preparing children for why this year might look different than others. In our first entry of the series, we discussed how parents can avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with social media. This week, we want to take a moment to discuss the importance of taking COVID-19 seriously and the impact failing to do so can have.

COVID-19 does not mean parents can make unilateral decisions

In July we wrote about a mother who was not satisfied that the father had been taking the appropriate steps to safeguard their child’s health in relation to COVID-19 and did not return the child to the father’s care when scheduled to do so. She said the child was at risk due to the father’s behaviour.

In ordering the child to be returned to the father, the court stated that the COVID-19 pandemic should not result in a widespread suspension of parenting time, and that the mother had acted inappropriately in adopting a “self-help” approach in the face of an existing order. The court also found that the father’s safeguarding of the child’s health was reasonable.

The importance of following health guidelines

In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, a father had found a new partner which raised concerns with their child’s mother about the father’s social circle, which included his new partner and her two children from a previous relationship. The mother asked the court to limit the children’s social circle to her, the father, and her parents, and that the father take overnight visits with the children at her house.

The court stated that the father’s failure to let the mother know about his new partner and her children was in contradiction to the province’s COVID-19 guidelines. While the court did allow the social circle to be expanded, the case is a good reminder that it’s important to follow all of the COVID-19 rules.

Using COVID-19 as an excuse for reducing support

In another decision issued during the pandemic, a father brought a motion asking for his spousal support and child support obligations to be lowered due to a “material change in circumstances.” He stated that his income had been reduced by 42% during the pandemic. However, the court found that the father was a 90% shareholder in the company that employed him, and that he is in charge of setting his salary. The father was not able to show the court that the pandemic had impacted his company’s profitability, and therefore there was no reason for him to have experienced a reduction in income.

As always, parents must be careful not to contravene existing custody and access orders. While the COVID-19 pandemic naturally raises some novel concerns, the crisis alone will not automatically result in a suspension of in-person parenting time.

If you have questions about your rights, it is best to speak with a lawyer. At Gelman & Associates, we understand that this is an uncertain and stressful time. We remain open to help our clients, but are taking precautions to keep safety paramount. Our goal is to always empower clients to make informed decisions about their future.

In order to be available to clients and prospective clients, our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Call us at 1-844-769-0737, or contact us online if you have a family law matter you need help with.

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