Across Canada, separated couples with parenting agreements are likely pondering the impact COVID-19 will have on their situation. As we all receive advice to shelter in place and limit interactions, it’s had some knock-on effects on family law.
How can a couple follow their current parenting agreement when both are being advised to keep contact outside their household to a minimum? In this week’s blog, we’ll attempt to cover this tricky issue.
The Child’s Best Interest Comes First
Usually, lawyers will turn to legal precedent to chart a path forward. With COVID-19, we don’t really have a precedent for a social distancing situation. Now, more than ever, the health and safety of the child in question should come first. The fact there is a pandemic should not, in itself, prevent a parent from fulfilling their obligations under the Parenting Agreement unless there is a risk of transmitting the virus to the child.
Future Scenarios that Could Impact on an Agreement
Over the course of the next few months, parents across Canada will likely be forced to confront a number of potential scenarios that would prevent them from fulfilling the terms of their parenting agreement, or put the child at greater risk. All are based on current guidelines put in place by Health Canada and Provincial Chief Medical Officers. Here are some likely ones:
- one parent has entered into self-isolation after coming into contact with an infected party;
- one parent becomes infected with COVID-19
- one parent lives with older or immunocompromised family members
- If either parent (or anyone in the household) is a front line medical worker
If any of the above scenarios is a risk to the current parenting agreement, it’s vital to come together now and discuss contingency plans.
Making Contingency Plans for Parenting
There’s so much we don’t understand about COVID-19. We also don’t know what the situation will be in Canada months from now. Making a plan now isn’t just common sense, it’s in the best interest of the child. Consider the following factors:
- Who is best placed to care for the child in an isolation scenario? If schools are out for the foreseeable future, the child will be spending the majority of their time at home. Do they have everything they need in both homes?
- What is the current visitation schedule? Consider changing it so the child spends longer periods with one parent. This cuts down the need to travel between homes and aids efforts to distance.
This is a time for putting the child first and serving their best interests. Parents should make every effort to come together and find a solution that provides the best living arrangement for their child at this time.
Find Out More
Westside Family Law can assist with any legal aspect of the separation agreement process. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.