Shared parenting can be difficult in the best of times. The current climate of the COVID-19 virus pandemic and the self-isolation and social distancing measures in place will not make it any easier. Unfortunately, there are some parents who will attempt to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic to keep their children in their care and not release them to the other party, citing concerns for children being exposed to the virus. The only consideration that parents should have, whether during the pandemic or otherwise, is what is in the best interest of the children. The following are things to keep in mind when addressing parenting issues during the pandemic:
- Every parent’s priority must be the best interests of the children. Keeping your children safe is in your children’s best interests.
- If there is no real concern with the children being at risk for contracting the virus while with the other parent, the regular parenting schedule should continue.
- If there is a real concern for the children being exposed to the to COVID-19 virus while in the care of the other parent, then all precautions should be taken to ensure that the children are safe. For example, if a parent or someone in his or her household is quarantined for 14 or more days, this may mean that the parenting time for the at risk parent is suspended for until the risk is neutralized or there is some other arrangement put into place which may include a schedule for make-up parenting time. If you do have a real concern, you could reach out to your family doctor to seek an informed opinion on the situation.
- If it comes to a point where the government institutes a lock down preventing people from leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary, the parent who has the children in his or her care at the time the lock-down is announced will likely have to keep the children in their care unless exceptions are put in place by the government. In this scenario, it will be in the children’s best interests to have as much contact with the other parent as possible via FaceTime, Skype, teleconference etc.
- If your ex-spouse is withholding the children from you and you are not able to reach an agreement as between yourselves, you will have the ability to seek the court’s assistance. Currently, all hearings in BC Provincial Court and BC Supreme Court have been suspended unless the matter is an urgent or there is an emergency. Withholding children is an urgent matter and the court will likely hear the application. However, please understand that there may be a procedural delay in having your matter heard given that the court is managing the pandemic day by day and modifying process and procedures as they need to.
Ultimately, the best thing parents can do for their children in this unpredictable time is to communicate with each other and work together on a plan for their shared parenting. This means communicating and coming to a consensus on things like restrictions on outdoor activities (no beaches or parks), restricting visits with other family or friends who live outside the two parents’ households, no play dates etc.
We are all experiencing an unprecedented event which will require parents to be understanding and flexible in this constantly changing landscape. If you need assistance in dealing with this issue, or any other family law related issue, our lawyers at Henderson Heinrichs LLP continue to offer free 30 minute consultations via phone or video conference.