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Determining Best Interests for a Child During COVID-19

COVID-19 has been a devastating time for many. The economy is crashing, millions have lost their jobs, and too many are losing their lives. Though the virus does not discriminate, it favors the most vulnerable of our society: people with pre-existing health issues and the elderly. 

In such a sad and frightening global crisis, many people have been doing their best to stay positive and cope with the physical distancing guidelines and laws. 

We have heard people supporting our essential workers by cheering from their balconies, porches, and front doors. Families all around the world are constantly thanking health care workers for working around the clock as most just stay at home. And many young families have their little children make adorable signs that have been going viral on social media.

The future of our children, however, should not be overlooked over during this pandemic.

When it comes to parents who share custody of a child court-mandated orders to have time spent with either parent still should be upheld. Although the Superior Court of Justice Family Branch has shutdown to routine matters, the justice system has stated that there is a zero-tolerance for wilfully ignoring court orders. This may seem strange considering it has been issued by the Government of Ontario to stay home and only leave for essential reasons. Having said that, access to one’s children should continue.  The Courts have stated that this is not the time to change the status quo; orders should be followed and the best interests of the child should prevail. 

It is in a child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents (in most cases regardless of their current living situation). This does not mean that both parties need to be present during this interaction, but it does mean when transporting children to and from the places of residency, social distancing protocols need to followed.

Despite this time being very uncertain, family lifestyles should remain a consistent factor in order to create a sense of normalcy for the child. It can be very difficult for them right now physically and mentally as they are not in school getting the proper mental stimulation or interaction with their friends. This is why it is crucial for divorced families to put aside their differences and use this time to work as a team for their child and not use COVID-19 as a reason to alienate a former spouse.

If on the other hand a parent or child has recently traveled out of the country and is subjected to a 14-day isolation period then access should be temporarily augmented during this time period.

We live in a befuddling and troublesome time where guardians and kids are under danger of genuine disease intensified by pounding monetary weights on isolated families. The issue is increased when courts are shut to everything except pressing and urgent family law matters. If you are in a situation where you and your previous spouse cannot work it out and a child may be at risk, or worse still, one parent uses the current situation to ignore existing access arrangements, please give us a call and book a free 30-minute consultation.

Here at Epstein & associates are incredibly knowledgeable with regards to child care and access questions following the breakdown of a relationship. In the event that you have worries about shared access during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will work to discover a settlement that accommodates your family’s particular situation.