These are uncertain times for sure.
As parents we are always trying to do what is best for our children.
What is best for the children can have two sides.
With government mandating we stay indoors and limit interaction, parenting exchanges and determining whether it is best for a child to stay in one home, has become a topic of heavy discussion.
As legal professionals, this is a new issue for us.
We have never faced such uncertainty.
The court systems have dramatically reduced the cases they are willing and able to hear, and the judiciary is asking parents to act rationally and reasonable.
In these trying times, for both parents and children.
Co-parenting and communication has become even more vital.
Having a safe place to complete parenting exchanges is a first step.
Respectful communication between parents about the parameters of social distancing, and maintaining normalcy and routine for children is paramount.
What Impact Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Having On Parenting Agreements & Obligations?
A case has recently been decided by a judge involving a parent who was seeking to suspend access or parenting time during these days of social distancing.
This case was heard in Hamilton and is called Riberio v Wright.
It confirms the importance of co-parenting and creating a reasonable plan for the child.
In this case, there was a court order in place setting out what parenting time each parent should have with the child.
The mother, who is the primary caregiver, sought to reduce parenting for the father, stating social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.
As in any case involving a child, the child’s best interests are the paramount concern.
Justice Pazaratz found this case did not meet the test of urgency, and the potential for COVID-19 was not a strong enough reason to suspend parenting time or access.
This decision was without prejudice to a future motion if a more serious and specific COVID -19 problem arose.
That means, if circumstances change, they can go back to court and seek a change in the parenting time arrangements.
What can we learn from the Riberio v Wright. case?
First lesson, everyone should be social distancing.
Following these parameters is not reason enough to deny parenting time or access.
Second lesson, parents, especially now, need to work together, act reasonably and over-communicate regarding the child’s well being and agreeable safety parameters to minimize the child potential exposure to COVID-19.
Third lesson, the courts are following a strict test of urgency in these unprecedented times. Lastly, should a specific, serious concern arising relating to COVID-19 or otherwise, the courts will act.
What does that mean for parents?
Ensure your child’s sense of normalcy is maintained as much as possible.
Allow more frequent phone calls or video calls with the other parent so the children are assured both parents are safe and healthy.
In these times, our children will look to us and our reaction to current events.
They need to see parents who are cooperative, reassuring, and working together to ensure they are safe, happy and healthy.
Most important, if you need assistance seek it out.
Whether it be legal assistance, mental health support, or any other form of assistance.
The first step in positive parenting and co-parenting is ensuring you have the support you need.
Many services are being offered remotely by telephone, or video conferencing such as Zoom.
We are all in this together.
As matters change by the hour, having a strong support system is essential.
Social distancing does not mean you are alone in navigating COVID-19.