“The issue to be determined is whether the Covid-19 crisis, and the public health advisories associated with the crisis, are a change of circumstances as to justify suspending the mother’s parenting time…”
On April 1, 2020, the British Columbia Provincial Court released an oral decision of the Honourable Judge R.P. McQuillan. The decision deals with an urgent application to enforce an order for supervised parenting time, among other relief. The application was made by the mother after the father denied her parenting time. The father justified the denial citing the Covid-19 crisis and the health and safety issues arising from it. He asserts the mother is unlikely to comply with the social and physical distancing protocols recommended by the Province and raised concern about her mental health.
The Judge reminds us that every decision the Court makes must consider only the best interests of the child. The Court goes on to recognize that Covid-19 has made this inquiry more difficult. Judge McQuillan looks to Dr. Michael Elterman PhD, MBA, R.Psych’s recent recommendations. The recommendations are a guide for parents and their lawyers who are navigating parenting arrangements in this new Covid-19 landscape. Those recommendations are set out at paragraph 28 of the decision:
 Dr. Elterman describes a variety of common parenting decisions that may increase risks for both the child and the community, and should form part of decisions regarding parenting arrangements. They include:
- If a parent has had contact with an infected party, they should disclose this immediately to the other parent.
- If the parent is infected or even ill with symptoms or needed to be tested for Covid-19, they should not take the child.
- If the parent is in a home with older family members or friends or with individuals who are immune-compromised, the child should not be in that home.
- There should be no play dates and the child should not be taken to family or social gatherings.
- If parenting time is to occur in a public place such as a community centre, a mall or a restaurant, then it should be suspended.
- If a supervisor is required and who is not the spouse of the parent and living in the home, then the parenting time should be suspended.
- If either parent or anyone in the household is in an Essential Service or still working with the public, eg. doctors, nurses, at a supermarket or pharmacy, flight attendant, etc.) then this can represent an increased risk to the child.
The father was not able to point to any concrete concerns about the mother’s lack of compliance with Covid-19 protocols. His concerns were based only on historical issues and the mother’s mental health challenges. The mother assured the court that her household was complying with all recommendations and they were essentially on lockdown. The father was ordered to comply with the existing court order for the mother to have supervised parenting time. The mother’s request for a police enforcement clause was denied as it is an extraordinary remedy limited to exceptional cases and the Judge did not believe it would be necessary.
Finally, while the Judge found that the father did deny the mother parenting time, he found the denial was not wrongful and there was no bad faith on the part of the father. The court states “in the unprecedented and evolving circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, his actions were not unreasonable, albeit incorrect.”
Read the full decision here.
If you have concerns about adhering to parenting arrangements during Covid-19, contact our office at 250-591-1055 to schedule a one-hour consult to learn more.
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