COVID-19 is creating uncertainty across the world and in our homes. Amid school and daycare cancelations, altered work schedules, self-isolation and growing health concerns, parents have been especially impacted by the pandemic. Separated and divorced parents are faced with the additional challenge of parenting their children between households during this time. The following is intended to provide information and considerations for separated and divorced parents. This information is not intended as legal advice. Should you have any questions respecting family law related matters we recommend that you consult with a lawyer.
Parenting Orders and Agreements
Parenting arrangements that are set out in Agreements or Court Orders should continue despite the pandemic. While the Courts in Saskatchewan have not yet had the opportunity to address this issue, it is expected that parties to an Agreement or Court Order will abide by the terms of the Agreement or Order. In a recent ruling in the United States it was determined that Court Orders for parenting time are not impacted by COVID-19; it is expected that our courts would take the same position. It is important for children to continue to have consistency and ongoing relationships with each of their parents, especially in times such as these when children may be especially anxious. Relying on the pandemic as reason to deny parenting time is not reasonable; it is not an opportunity to “cut out” the other parent. What the Courts will want to see is parents coming together during a time of uncertainty to act in their children’s best interests.
In extraordinary cases where there may be imminent risks to the children, parenting arrangements may need to be altered. Examples of which might include, where a parent has recently travelled to a high risk area, where a child has compromised immunity, where a parent or child has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or if the parent or child has COVID-19 symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If one of these exceptions exists, it is important that you communicate with the other parent and attempt to reach a resolution that safeguards the health of all involved. If you are unable to reach a resolution, or have questions about what constitutes an extraordinary circumstance, you should contact a lawyer.
With the closure of schools and daycares, the reality is that many parents will have to alter their parenting arrangements. This is a time for co-operation and flexibility to ensure that your children’s needs are being met. Important discussions should also be had between parents. Such discussions might include how to talk to your children about the pandemic, ensuring proper hygiene and handwashing in both households, whether to self-isolate the children, whether to avoid playdates, and what the plan will be if a child exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. The implementation of consistent COVID-19 precautions in both households will not only maintain stability for the children but will ensure that their health is foremost.
In the event parents determine that children or themselves should self-isolate, there are many ways in which children can communicate with the parent whom they are not with. In addition to texting and phone calls, electronic communication such as FaceTime and Skype allow children to maintain contact with their parents. Be creative and read books over the phone, play games such as “I spy” on FaceTime, or watch shows together on Youtube.
Children are looking to their parents for hope, safety and security during this time. Now more than ever it is important for parents to be civil and respectful to each other. Communicating with the other parent to ensure the well-being and stability of the children is vital. If this cannot be done, it is important to communicate through a third party to work out a sensible solution.
For more information, please contact:
Kirsten M. Hnatuk