During this trying time, some of the most popular questions our clients are asking us include:
“How am I supposed to parent my children with my ex-partner during this COVID-19 crisis?”
“Should I stop the parenting schedule for now?”
“My Ex won’t let me see our children and is using this COVID-19 situation as an excuse, what should I do?”
All of these questions are understandable, as parents’ concerns turn to their number one priority – their children. But they can also result in avoidable stress and unnecessary disputes – particularly at a time when children are also already impacted by major disruptions to their daily lives.
To help you parent effectively but also safely during this crisis, we have provided some tips below:
- COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR EX-PARTNER: During your time with your children, keep a log of where the children go, what they do and any potential risks they may have been exposed to. During the “handover” share this log with the other parent so everyone is aware and on the same. If your child or you are displaying symptoms, please let your former partner know right away. Ensure that information is relayed in a timely manner. Remain calm and express to your children the temporary nature of this pandemic. Have open conversations with your children while refraining from being alarmist.
- BE SELFISH ABOUT YOUR HEALTH: Make your health and the health of your family a top priority. Make sure you are following the suggestions about social distancing, hand washing, wiping down surfaces and so forth.
- COMPLY WITH COURT ORDERS: It is important that you are abiding by court orders. If there is a court order for parenting time, make sure you are following it. However the Family Law Act does consider that it is permissible for parents to deny parenting time if the child would be put into danger or the child is too ill for parenting time to be exercised.
Section 62 of the Family Law Act states:
62 (1)For the purposes of section 61 [denial of parenting time or contact], a denial of parenting time or contact with a child is not wrongful in any of the following circumstances:
(a)the guardian reasonably believed the child might suffer family violence if the parenting time or contact with the child were exercised;
(b)the guardian reasonably believed the applicant was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time the parenting time or contact with the child was to be exercised;
(c)the child was suffering from an illness when the parenting time or contact with the child was to be exercised and the guardian has a written statement, by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, indicating that it was not appropriate that the parenting time or contact with the child be exercised;
(d)in the 12-month period before the denial, the applicant failed repeatedly and without reasonable notice or excuse to exercise parenting time or contact with the child;
(i)informed the guardian, before the parenting time or contact with the child was to be exercised, that it was not going to be exercised, and
(ii)did not subsequently give reasonable notice to the guardian that the applicant intended to exercise the parenting time or contact with the child after all;
(f)other circumstances the court considers to be sufficient justification for the denial.
If you’re unsure about what parenting time should look like, especially with the closure of schools, contact your legal counsel to help interpret your court order, or help enter into an agreement with your former partner. It is important the decisions you make in this time are still made in the best interests of your child, putting their needs before your own. Should you be required to limit or postpone parenting time, try maintaining regular contact through Skype or Facetime.
Other considerations include:
- TRY TO MAKE REASONABLE ATTEMPTS FOR MAKEUP PARENTING TIME:
Maintaining contact with the other parent is important for your children so try to provide reasonable makeup parenting time for any days they may have missed. Makeup parenting time should reflect the time as outlined in the court order.
- BE REASONABLE AND FLEXIBLE: If your former partner is struggling to pay child support because they have lost their jobs, try to come up with a reasonable agreement. If there is an underpayment, the Courts will address that at a later time. It would be advisable to pro- rate it according to the new expected income. Your counsel can help calculate how much child support should be paid, and the new child support order.
If you have any questions, please contact one of our Family Law lawyers or call 604.581.7001.