BC and Canadian Covid-19 Parenting Time Disputes can involve:
- brand new applications for parenting time,
- changes to former parenting time plans because of Covid-19, and
- disputes, where a parent wants to reestablish the former parenting time plan after parenting time was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic
Today, hardworking Fort St. John lawyer Jaye Rutledge will discuss a recent court decision regarding a father’s application to return to equal parenting time with his children following a disruption to this schedule due to COVID-19. Jaye has successfully represented parents who are seeking to return to pre-COVID-19 parenting arrangements as well as parents seeking to obtain new parenting arrangements during COVID-19. Jaye can be reached directly at our Northern BC office at 250 262 5052.
MacLean Law’s national family lawyers act across Canada helping you resolve Covid-19 Parenting Time Disputes.
Covid-19 Parenting Time Disputes 1 877 602 9900
Jaye warns that prompt action on dealing with Covid-19 parenting time disputes is crucial. Procrastination usually makes matters worse for your children who deserve to see both parents after separation to help them grow up to be successful adults. Covid-19 should not be used as an excuse to take advantage in child parenting cases.
BC Child Custody Lawyers
On December 10, 2020, the BC Supreme Court released the decision Munroe v Elisseeva, 2020 BCSC 1952, which considered how temporary disruptions to parenting schedules due to COVID-19 should be treated by the courts. In this case the mother and father had equal parenting time for their children from July 2018 to March 2020. In March 2020 a variety of COVID-19 related factors prevented the father from exercising his parenting time, including a temporary agreement that the father not have parenting time to reduce the child’s chance of exposure, and, shortly thereafter, a COVID-19 outbreak at the father’s workplace. Following these temporary issues, the father asked the mother to return to the regular schedule of equal parenting time. However, the mother refused and this forced the father to bring a court application to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, at this time the father was facing several other difficult personal events including the hospitalization of his father and his partner’s miscarriage and hospitalization. Consequently, he was only able to make a court application for a return to equal parenting time about half a year after he was first separated from his child. The court made a number of important findings in this case related to COVID-19 parenting time arrangements. First, the court made it very clear that despite the six month gap in any real parenting by the father, that the former equal parenting time was the appropriate yardstick the court should use when considering the best future parenting arrangements. In doing so the court said:
 In March 2020, as for many parents in British Columbia, the parties’ lives were disrupted by the pandemic. From the end of March 2020 to the end of May 2020, a period of approximately two months, the children did not see their father for what are essentially pandemic-related reasons. I do not consider the claimant’s absence from the children’s lives during this period to have altered the status quo. Simply put, it was too short a time period to displace the previous 20-month routine.
 The period from June 2020 to November 2020 was equally unusual and marked with uncertainty. While the court application was not filed for several months (for reasons that are understandable), it was abundantly clear to both parties that they were heading towards litigation. The evidence also leads me to conclude that the children were aware that the matter of how much time they would spend with their father was not settled.
 It was not until the interim order made by Justice Harvey on October 9 that the father next saw his children. Since that time, the children have seen their father on alternating weekends.
 There is no doubt that the children have spent considerably less time with their father over the past eight months when compared to what they had done in the preceding 20 months. However, I do not consider this reduction in parenting time sufficient to alter the status quo. From March 2020 to November 2020, the children’s routine with their father has been in flux. There is no “new normal” routine for the children which can be said to have displaced the parenting time status quo which existed for almost two years until March 2020.
 There is no doubt that the events of the past eight months have caused a serious disruption in the children’s lives. Due to the pandemic, schools were closed for a considerable period of time. When they re-opened, there were new safety protocols which had to be followed. The children have expressed concern and anxiety to their father about the pandemic and a reluctance to be outdoors. Returning to the status quo of a week-on/week-off schedule will provide them with the comfort of a predictable routine which they had become accustomed to. It will offer stability during a time when so many things are unpredictable.
Court Rejects Argument Father Didn’t Care
Secondly, the court refused to accept an argument from the mother that the failure to parent his child for 6 months meant he did not care about his children, saying:
 I also do not accept the respondent’s contention that the father voluntarily exited from the children’s lives at the end of March 2020, thereby exhibiting a lack of regard for the impact that this would have on the children’s emotional well-being. I have already discussed the unusual circumstances of the pandemic which necessitated that the father temporarily cease seeing the children, and the subsequent events from June to November 2020 when the respondent’s legal counsel became involved. I am satisfied that the father is acutely aware of the emotional needs of the children and the impact that both of the parties’ actions have on the children’s well-being.
Finally, the court spoke about how the mother’s failure to facilitate parenting time for the father spoke poorly of her possible lack of cooperation in the future, saying:
 I have some concerns about the mother’s actions in this case which affect my view of her ability to cooperate with the father. By operation of s. 48 of the FLA, it was incumbent upon the mother to consult with the father before unilaterally changing their longstanding parenting arrangement in June 2020. Meaningful consultation requires more than just advocating for one’s own position. It requires listening to the other parent’s concerns in an effort to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. In my view, the June 19 letter from respondent’s counsel made it clear that the respondent was not interested in having any meaningful consultation with the claimant.
 In her categorical refusal to allow a return to the week-on/week-off schedule that the children had become accustomed to, the respondent chose to take advantage of the father’s decision to prioritize the children’s health and safety during the pandemic. In so doing, the respondent’s actions were reprehensible, unjustifiable, and went against the children’s best interests.
 However, at this juncture, I believe it is still possible for the parties to re-develop a working relationship for the best interests of the children. Though the parties may initially find it difficult, an equal shared parenting arrangement that requires the parties to cooperate would not be inappropriate given their history of cooperation. There is strong evidence that despite their different parenting styles, the parties have managed to work through their differences over the six years following their separation. For almost two of those years, they maintained an equal shared parenting schedule and shared parental responsibilities. While the respondent has been less than cooperative over the past six months, I believe that the parties are more than capable of putting their differences aside, so as to focus on the needs of the children.
Covid-19 Parenting Time Disputes Lawyers 1 877 602 9900
Whether you are a parent who is seeking a return to the parenting arrangements you had before COVID-19 or a parent who is concerned about the impacts COVID-19 has had on your ex-spouse’s ability to parent, it is incumbent on you to contact a qualified family lawyer to guide you through the steps to ensuring that the best interests of your children are advocated for. Call our offices across Canada toll free at 1 877 602 9900