The Provincial Court of British Columbia has released another judgment on April 20, 2020, amidst Covid-19. This judgement of the Honourable Judge K.J. Ferriss deals with parenting time of a child with autism immediately following the breakdown of a relationship where no existing order, agreement, or informal arrangements were in place.
The issue to be decided by Judge Ferriss was whether the father’s application for parenting time was an “urgent” matter as defined by the Notice released by the Provincial Court.
The matter had been before the court already during this period of limited operation. An order had already been made granting the father Skype contact with the child and another order granting the father in-person parenting time over the Easter weekend. The judgment indicates that the mother did not comply with either order and that the father has had no contact with the child since mid-March.
The judgment succinctly summarizes helpful perspectives and considerations outlined in cases from both Ontario and B.C.
Judge Ferriss concludes the matter to be “urgent” citing the following reasons at paragraph 31:
- [The father] has apparently attempted to contact the Family Justice Counsellors to try mediation with [the mother] regarding parenting time, and she has not participated;
- [The mother] has apparently not followed the Order allowing [the father] to see [the child] by way of Skype, although she agreed to do so on March 27, 2020; and
- It is not a case where [the father] is simply unhappy with the amount of parenting time he has been provided by [the mother]. [The father] has not had any in-person parenting time with [the child] since separation, and an Order appears to be the only way he will be able to see his son. I note that he is seeking the extraordinary remedy of a police enforcement clause.
The Judge also considered the fact that the four-year-old child has autism and has resided with both parents until the separation in mid-March, stating the child “needs to have a relationship with both of his parents, as well as consistency in his schedule, provided that can be done safely.”
Due to the inability of the parents to appear by telephone without arguing, the Judge ordered the hearing to proceed by way of affidavit (sworn evidence in writing). The Judge sets out what the parties’ affidavits should contain. For example, the father is directed to include the following in his affidavit, plus any documentation he wishes to rely on:
- His current living situation and address;
- His current work situation;
- His proposal for parenting time with [the child], which should be specific and realistic, while fully addressing all COVID-19 considerations;
- The efforts he has made and can make to ensure [the child’s] safety, while adhering to the recommendations of public health officials at this time;
- Any specific concerns about [the mother’s] living conditions, especially regarding COVID-19 considerations; and
- Any relevant facts regarding [the child’s] best interests as set out in 37 of the Family Law Act.
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