What Has Co-parenting Become After Covid-19?

What Has Co-parenting Become After Covid-19?

Ever since the Ontario government announced a “lockdown” and advised people to stay home because of the COVID-19 virus, many separated parents have refused to share their children with the other parent, claiming that it is too dangerous for children to travel between homes. In this article, we are going to learn what co-parenting has become after covid-19. 

Despite being open to the public, the courts began hearing many “urgent” cases involving the withholding of children who violated either: 

  1. Existing agreements, 
  2. Binding court orders.  

The general message the courts are conveying to attorneys and parents alike is that it would be inappropriate to disregard court orders or agreements that have been negotiated or carefully considered and determined to be in the child’s best interests. 

According to the guidelines set out in the early COVID-19 pandemic decision, a parent must provide evidence of behaviour on the part of the other parent that does not follow COVID-19 guidelines. There is generally no right of a parent to break a parenting order or agreement if the other parent is willing to provide absolute assurance that they will follow COVID-19 protocols meticulously. Until a court order or agreement is in place, the principle of “maximum contact” with both parents remains considered in a child’s best interest.

During a recent case heard by the Honourable Justice Wilcox, the children were in the mother’s primary care, but with both parents having access to them on a rotating basis each week. In the aftermath of Ontario’s pandemic, the mother sought clarification from the father about his decision to adopt COVID-19 precautions. Because the father responded aggressively and undetailed manner, the mother assumed that he did not take the COVID-19 precautions seriously, thus placing the children at increased risk of infection. 

The Major Challenge

A major challenge for parents during an epidemic is disagreements over social distancing and other safety measures. The severity of the pandemic, the steps that need to be taken, and how it impacts our lives are common subjects of disagreement between couples. We are in uncharted territory, and COVID-19 is full of unknowns. Still, the interesting thing is that there has been clear guidance from medical authorities and experts to limit social contact with immediate family, avoid unnecessary excursions, and keep at least six feet away from others when outside. As far as protecting family members during this pandemic, it is essential to put past disagreements aside and work together to complete what we are all being asked to do.

Children and families are at risk for mental illness during prolonged periods of isolation, in addition to their physical health. Since separated families have two homes, co-parenting, and two families, they may be particularly vulnerable to emotional and mental health problems since attending school, playing with their friends, and leaving the house can lead to contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to other family members. In the unique circumstances of COVID-19, anything parents can do to relieve their children’s stress is crucial to their emotional wellbeing.

Special Considerations for Co-parenting families

The ideal situation would be for co-parents to have a plan to help them solve this issue. Under stressful circumstances, they may not understand how to talk calmly or make decisions together. Most problems are solved in the same way when they are together. Instead of arguing, withholding, or even bullying, they should stand back and ask unselfishly, “What can we do together to keep our child safe?”.

In discussing the possible need to adjust the visitation schedule of their child, co-parents can consider the following questions:

  • If the child is being sent back and forth between parents as part of the parenting plan, is this in the child’s best interest?
  • Does one parent have a better chance of supporting homeschooling than the other? Does either parent have access to the internet?
  • Are there any household members whose jobs require them to contact the public, which could put them at risk?
  • How much public contact do the other people in the home have, and who lives there?
  • Does a family member belong to a high-risk group: over 60, sick, immunocompromised?
  • Can the children at one home play and exercise outside while keeping the recommended physical distance? 
  • Is there more outdoor space at one home or better access to safe outdoor spaces?

You will notice that previous parenting plans are not considered in these questions. Parents are urged to consider their children’s safety and the safety of everyone at home by making changes now. After an uncontested or contested divorce, many parents find it hard to come up with better solutions. 

The situation is particularly challenging when the parents fear that if they give up any time with their child, they will prefer the other parent or the other parent will manipulate them if the parenting plan changes—another sticky question about whether more child support needs to be paid. Furthermore, many parents worry that they will never get their time back if the parenting plan changes. In this regard, a family lawyer might be your best option, who can guide you toward the best possible solution.

Final Words

In summary, co-parenting during and after the COVID-19 pandemic is essentially a matter of parents doing what is in their children’s best interests. It is inconsistent with children’s best interests, even in the context of the pandemic, for one parent to deny parenting time to another unless there are extenuating circumstances. COVID-19 is not a valid excuse for denying co-parenting time so that parents are healthy and fit to do so. 

The parent risks causing emotional distress to a child when they put the relationship with the other parent on hold. Children need both their parents to love, guide, and provide them with emotional support whenever a crisis occurs. For more information, you can contact us, and we would be happy to assist you. 

Request a Free Consultation

Free Consultation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Written by: the Divorce Fast Team

Our team of Ontario lawyers has over 15 years of experience handling divorce and other family law matters.

All of our lawyers are in good standing with the Law Society of Ontario, and have the knowledge and experience to help and guide you through your family law issues. Whether your matter pertains to divorce, separation, custody/access, or support claims, we are the firm for you.

Contact Divorce Fast for a Free Consultation.

Posted in