Many families are struggling with co-parenting and Covid-19 challenges. Even families who have never been to court before are seeking the Court’s help in this unprecedented time. Essential workers in particular, are being dragged into court to defend their right to see their children.
Court Orders Essential Worker to see Child even after Contact with Covid-19 Patient
In the Vancouver case of S.R. v. M.G., 2020 BCPC 57, the Honourable Judge Bond decided a Covid-19 co-parenting case. The case involved an essential worker parent and an eight year old child.
The mother had primary care of the child and was a health care worker. She had contact with a Covid-19 infected patient. As a result, the father decided to withhold her parenting time with their child. He insisted that she be quarantined for 14-days and not see their child.
By the time Judge Bond heard this case, the father admitted that there was no current risk, as the 14-day quarantine had elapsed.
The Judge ordered:
- the return of the child to the mother within two hours of the hearing; and
- for the mother to have two straight weeks of make-up parenting time.
Judge Bond recognized that both parents loved their son deeply and were concerned about his well-being. She also acknowledged the mother had agonized over whether the precautions she was taking were sufficient to protect their child.
Co-parenting and COVID-19 are About the Best Interests of the Child
Some helpful points about co-parenting and Covid-19 court applications are that in determining the child’s best interest key factors for consideration are:
a) whether the child is at an elevated risk of suffering the more severe consequences of the virus;
b) whether either party, or those in the household, are at an elevated risk of suffering the more severe consequences of the virus;
c) each party’s exposure to the risk of contracting the virus;
d) steps taken by each party to mitigate the risk of exposure;
e) all of the relevant factors listed under s. 37 of the Family Law Act, including:
– the child’s health and emotional well-being;
– the child’s views, where appropriate;
– the child’s relationship with each parent;
– the history of the child’s care;
– the child’s need for stability, given their age and stage of development;
– each parent’s ability to exercise his or her parental responsibilities;
– the ability of each party to cooperate in parenting the child; and
f) in the larger context, society’s need to maintain and access resources in the community, including health care and other ventures that provide services and income for families in a safe manner over an extended period of time.
What the Court Says about Essential Workers
The court also made specific points about essential workers acknowledging that:
1. Medical staff are working in an environment with a known risk and therefore they assume that they are constantly at risk of exposure. This means that they are generally observing all possible precautions. In contrast, other people who go out into the community to grocery shop or go jogging, for example, are perhaps not observing all of the precautions that they should be.
2. Essential workers are fulfilling a fundamentally important role at this critical time and that they are making sacrifices and taking risks for our benefit.
3. The mother in this matter was taking every conceivable step to mitigate the risk of bringing the virus home with her.
4. Although there is an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 as an essential worker, there is also a significant risk when a child loses an essential support in their life, like one of their parents.
In summary working in an essential service will not on its own be a reason for a parent to withhold parenting time. When an essential worker is taking the necessary precautions, the court is willing to make an order that parenting time continue.
So if you’re a co-parent, keep communications open with the other parent about your work and home situations.