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Tuesday April 21, 2020

Nova Scotia Court Rules on COVID-19 Parenting Time

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

The courts of Nova Scotia are currently operating under an emergency services model.

Last week, a Nova Scotia parenting case was deemed “urgent”. The case was heard in Sydney, Nova Scotia before the Honourable Justice Lee Anne MacLeod-Archer.1

Specifically, the father was only recently allowed unsupervised parenting time with the child. Before this, the father only had supervised parenting time due to his “abusive behaviours”.2 The parties had been to court numerous times to deal with parenting issues and at this time, the father was still not allowed overnight visits.

The father took their child for his daytime parenting on April 9 and kept him in his care ever since. The mother filed an emergency motion so the child would be returned to her care.

In response, the father argued:

  1. That the child is in “quarantine” at his home, because he was exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19 as a person coughed near the child (although he provided no evidence that this person had COVID-19), and
  2. That the child was not safe in the mother’s home, because her boyfriend returned from another province on April 5, 2020 and moved in with them without a prior period of self-quarantine.3

The court ordered the child stay with the father until April 19, 2020, which would allow the mother’s partner a full 14 days since his return to Nova Scotia. If her new partner wasn’t showing any symptoms by then, the child would be returned to the mother. The court was clear in that it only ordered this due to the state of emergency, the fact that the mother’s partner didn’t quarantine after returning from out-of-province, and because “police and welfare checks have raised no alarms with the child in Mr. McNeil’s care to date.”4

The court also held that the father’s future in-person parenting time are suspended until further review by the court. Instead, the father may have electronic communication at specific days and times.

The court also ordered the mother to ensure that her child practices strict social distancing and is not unnecessarily exposed to risk, which includes things like in-person play dates, sleepovers, visits to playgrounds, etc.

“Both parties are cautioned to abide by all directives issued by the health authorities during the pandemic, and to abide by the terms of their parenting order,”5 the court held.

If your co-parent is disregarding government policies on COVID-19, or 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.).  

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

1 McNeil v Christie, 2020 NSSC 145.

2 McNeil v Christie, 2020 NSSC 145 at para 5.

3 McNeil v Christie, 2020 NSSC 145 at para 9.

4 McNeil v Christie, 2020 NSSC 145 at para 14.

5 McNeil v Christie, 2020 NSSC 145 at para 20.

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