In the recently decided case of Ribeiro vs Wright, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice affirmed that parties with a pre-existing separation agreement or court order in place with respect to access rights cannot unilaterally change their access schedule on the basis of COVID-19.

The court stated that parties should not attempt to take advantage of the current challenges in relation to COVID-19 and seek to unilaterally not put in place different schedules for access. Parents who share custody of their children should continue to respect custody agreements during Covid-19 and continue their split parenting arrangements with their former spouse unless there is specific evidence that the child's health is at risk.

Challenges affecting Parents & Access during Covid-19

There are some challenges in relation to access rights and issues that affect family law matters in relation to COVID-19 – including but not limited to the following:

  1. Parents who are unable to work from home and have to interact with the general public on a regular basis
    • Example: Individuals who are considered to be essential workers (Nurses, Grocery Clerks, etc.)
  2. Parents returning home to Canada from abroad who must self isolate for a period of 14-days
  3. Parents who fail to comply with social/physical distancing recommendations from public health or parents who fail to take reasonable health precautions in relation to the safety of their children
  4. Parents who rely on their own parents for child care

Emergency Order In Ontario Courts & Family Law

As Ontario courts are still closed and operating in a virtual capacity due to the emergency order in place currently, courts are continuing to only hear urgent matters on a case-by-case basis.

If you have additional questions pertaining to family law matters, access or additional COVID-19 related issues related to family law, feel free to contact the lawyers at Devry Smith Frank LLP to discuss your rights and options.

Originally published by Devry Smith Frank, July 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.