Author: Peter D. Crowther

In two recent Ontario cases, the courts ordered shared parenting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Manning v. Ross, 2020 ONSC 2529, the court found it was an “emergency” as Mr. Manning was refusing to return the child to the mother as per their court order.

The parties’ child was four years old and prior to COVID-19, attended junior kindergarten. The parties’ current order set out Mr. Manning’s parenting time as every other weekend.

“The real issue between the parties is the interpretation of the present order that determines that Mr. Manning has care of Q on alternating weekends “if Q is in school that day.” Is Q in school at the present time and, if not, what should the parenting time be for Mr. Manning?”

As a result, the court held that the child was not in school and the present every other weekend schedule “unduly restricts the child from having time with her father.”

This case resulted in a change in parenting schedule – to four days with each parent at a time – while the child was out of school and the father was not working. This case is an example of how sometimes, COVID-19 may result in more parenting time for certain parents.

As to why four days were chosen, the judge held that given the child’s young age, shorter time intervals were in her best interests. “There is no reason that the present situation cannot be used to share the time the child spends with each parent.”

When asked to determine whether Mr. Manning was safely abiding by COVID-19 protocols, the court was satisfied that both parties were properly dealing with the current crisis.

On whether the father was giving the mother enough information about his safety measures, the court held: “there is no excuse for his vagueness. What, in the past, may have been intrusive questioning by a separated spouse is now proper concern for the safety of the child in both houses. Mr. Manning should have been more transparent and open. He should have volunteered information of his household before being asked. Both parties should do that going forward.”

The Court also held that this order applies only in these unique circumstances: “This order applies only to the time that all schools are closed, or the parties are not working. Once the local school board reopens or Mr. Manning returns to work, this order is rescinded, and the present order remains in place. The parties will need to keep track of the every other weekend schedule to be sure that it is maintained when the order returns to be in effect.”

In another recent Ontario decision, A.A. v. R.R., 2020 ONSC 1887, the judge interpreted the parties consent order to determine their parenting arrangements amidst COVID-19. 

The judge ruled the COVID-19 pandemic was not a continuation of March break and did not amount to a “Holiday”, within the meaning of the order.

Instead, the judge ordered that it was in the child’s best interests to have equal, shared parenting while the child’s school is closed.

“Given that schools may remain closed for many more weeks, it would not be in [the child’s] best interests for the [father] to have no access during this period.” The judge ordered a shared parenting schedule on an alternating weekly basis until the child’s school opened back up. 

To discuss your unique parenting arrangement amidst COVID-19, talk to a member of our Family Law team. Request your 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.