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Thursday May 7, 2020

Court Warns Preventing Co-Parent from Accessing Child has Consequences

Authored by: Peter D. Crowther Authored by: Terrance G. Sheppard Posted in: COVID-19 Family Law

“Unreasonable failure to support a child’s relationship with the other parent is a failure of parenting,” says Ontario Family Court judge.

In Di Vetta v. Di Vetta, 2020 ONSC 2347, the father brought an urgent motion because of the mother’s denial of parenting time amidst COVID-19. He claimed the mother was purposely obstructing his parental access and was failing to support the children’s relationship with him.

After the judge determined that this case was urgent and set filing deadlines for the case to move forward, he offered some advice and caution to parents during COVID-19:

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. The situation changes daily, if not hourly. To address the risks posed by the virus, as those risks are known at any particular time, government authorities and public health officials issue directives to address the perceived risks.”1

“There is no game plan for how parents should react, and many are understandably worried for themselves and their families and confused about what to do in such an atmosphere. It is certainly expected that parents would act in the best interests of their own child which consideration must include not only the child’s physical well-being, but also their emotional wellbeing. Total removal of one parent from any child’s life must be exercised cautiously.”2

The judge reiterates a point he and other judges have made previously on COVID-19 and parenting time: “What we’re looking for is realistic solutions. We will be looking to see if parents have made good faith efforts to communicate; to show mutual respect; and to come up with creative and realistic proposals which demonstrate both parental insight and COVID-19 awareness.”3

When it comes time to meet with the parties again, the judge expects they will come up with realistic solutions to their parenting issues. “Unreasonable failure to support a child’s relationship with the other parent is a failure of parenting.”

This is yet another example of how Canadian courts will look to see the reasonable efforts made by parents to facilitate parenting time with the children and other parent during this unprecedented time.

To discuss your unique parenting arrangement amidst COVID-19, talk to a member of our Family Law team. Request your free 30-minute consultation via phone or virtual meeting platform (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.).

*These cases are from Ontario. Therefore, they are not binding on Nova Scotian courts, but are likely persuasive; meaning these same logic and principles will likely apply in Nova Scotia.

This is legal information and is not intended to be legal advice.

1 Citing Douglas v Douglas, 2020 ONSC 2160 at para 8.

2 Citing Douglas v Douglas, 2020 ONSC 2160 at para 9.

3 Balbontin v Luwawa, 2020 ONSC 1996 at para 9 citing Ribeiro v Wright, 2020 ONSC 1829 at para 23.

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