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BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update alert is provided by the top-rated family lawyers at MacLean Law. New decisions on child custody, child access and child parenting time are coming down at a fast and furious pace. Lorne MacLean, QC, provides the latest BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update. CBC just reported the parenting time decision of Judge Bond involving a mother who was a front line health care worker who was in contact with COVID 19 infected patients. Judge Bond declined to reduce the mother’s parenting time and altered the schedule to maintain 50/50 parenting time. The mother also received make up time for the lost time the child suffered when the father refused to let the child see her. In S.R. v M.G the court grappled with what parenting time front line health care workers should have.

BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update 1 877 602 9900

Our BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update focuses on the principles a court should use in deciding disputed child custody cases involving the COVID 19 Coronavirus.

New Rules Established For Child Custody During The Pandemic

Judge Bond noted that the rules are developing rapidly and her decision forms the basis for this BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update:

[18]        It has already been said that we are in unchartered territory when it comes to decisions about parenting time. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our social community at its very roots, and it is clear it will continue to do so for a considerable period. In the meantime, however, life will go on.

[19]        There is very little case law on the considerations that should apply in assessing whether a parenting time regime should continue in circumstances of those service providers who continue to work with the public during the pandemic. These include everyone from clerks at the grocery store and pharmacy, to medical professionals working in clinics and hospitals, police officers, social workers, fire officials, paramedics, etc.

[20]        On the other hand, now that the virus is spreading in the community, we are exposing ourselves to the risk of contracting the virus by accessing any services, whatsoever. This includes receiving the newspaper or mail, purchasing groceries, attending at a bank, or going for a walk.

[21]        As S.R. points out, she is working in an environment with a known risk, as the medical staff assume that they are constantly at risk of exposure. By contrast, in the community an individual who appears to be well could be spreading the virus to others through touching surfaces or sneezing or coughing at the grocery store, or jogging on the street close to other pedestrians. It has been said that even those members of the public who are using masks are not protected because they are not following the necessarily procedures to ensure their safety in removing and storing their masks.

[22]        I find a constellation of factors to consider, in assessing what is in a child’s best interests. In this situation, the following factors are relevant:

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 their 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:

a.            The child’s health and emotional well-being;

b.            The child’s views, where appropriate;

c.            The child’s relationship with each parent;

d.            The history of the child’s care;

e.            The child’s need for stability, given his age and stage of development;

f.            Each parent’s ability to exercise his or her parental responsibilities;

g.            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.

BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update 1 877 602 9900 – The Decision

Judge Bond lauded both parents for their efforts to resolve that matter out of Court and found both were highly functioning in terms of parenting capacity. She found:

1.            That L.G. is not at an elevated risk of suffering the more severe consequences of this virus.

2.            There are no individuals living in either party’s household at risk of suffering the more severe consequences of this virus.

3.            Both parties are at risk of exposure to the virus. S.R. by virtue of her work at [omitted for publication] General Hospital and by exposure in the community. M.G. in a more limited manner through his work and in the community.

4.            Both parties have taken significant steps to mitigate the risk of exposure. S.R. says she has taken every precaution to protect herself and L.G. from contracting the virus. Likewise, M.G. has taken specific steps to ensure that his staff and his family are not exposed.

5.            With respect to the s. 37 factors:

a.            As indicated above, the child’s health is good. I have no indication that he is not managing well emotionally at this time, although he would, no doubt benefit from contact with his mother, provided it was safe.

b.            I do not have the child’s specific views on the matter as he is only eight years old.

c.            L.G. has had the benefit of both his parents being involved in his life and appears to have a solid relationship with each parent.

d.            Until recently, he has had a stable and consistent schedule of care and it is clear his parents have worked together to ensure his needs are met.

e.            L.G. is at a young age in which maintaining close contact with each parent is important for his healthy development.

f.            Both parents are fully capable of exercising their parental responsibilities in L.G.’s best interest.

g.            Each parent is able to cooperate in co-parenting L.G.

Health Care Workers Are Vitally Important And Their Jobs Should Not Negatively Impact Parenting Time

The judge found the mother S.R. is fulfilling a fundamentally important role as a health care worker at this critical time. She said both parents needed to tell the other if they were exposed to the virus and maintain an open dialogue to ensure the child stayed safe.

[27]        In all of these circumstances, after balancing the factors above, I find that it is appropriate that S.R. continue to have parenting time with L.G.. While there is some risk that she could contract the virus, I find that she has mitigated that risk by abiding by the precautions for nurses “and then some”, as she says. I should say as well that my decision is in part a result of my confidence that both parties will do the right thing to protect their son as this situation continues to change.

If you found this BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update helpful please let us know. If you have a case that relates to our BC COVID 19 Child Custody Parenting Update call us toll-free across Bc and in Calgary at 1 877 602 9900