A recent case from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice highlights the dilemma being faced by some separated parents over time sharing of their children in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Pazaratz, of the Hamilton Superior Court, a very experienced jurist, was faced with an urgent motion by the mother of a nine-year old boy, to suspend the father’s access time because of COVID-19. The mother was the primary parent in a joint custody arrangement. There were no specific allegations that the father was not taking the appropriate safety measures. Rather, the mother’s concern appears to have been a more generalized one, brought about by the pandemic itself, to restrict the back and forth exposure to the two households.
Contrary to what some believe, our Courts remain open although only for matters deemed “urgent”. Permission is required from a judge in order to proceed with the matter. Here Justice Pazaratz denied permission, noting among other things that there were no specific allegations made regarding the father’s safety measures or lack of them. He also sets out in detail a number of factors to be considered in the determination of urgency motions, especially in light of this unprecedented crisis. Even if you are not trained in the technicality and legalese of court decisions, the factors that His Honour weighs in excruciating detail, are quite understandable. This was a difficult decision and it is only one of the first in what may be other ‘urgent’ family law situations during the pandemic.
As His Honour concludes: “None of us have ever experienced anything like this. We are all going to have to try a bit harder – for the sake of our children.”