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Lawyers say court-ordered custody agreements must be followed, even during COVID-19

'It is important for the children to be able to see both parents,' says Mark Epstein
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With families being told to stay home, it leaves some divorced families navigating unprecedented waters.

The COVID-19 health crisis has Canadians in self-isolation and staying indoors to reduce the spread of the virus. That may be OK for some, but for children whose parents are separated or divorced and who go between two homes, the situation is a little less clear.

Cindy Scharff, of Gelman & Associates, said that the parenting schedule for divorced and separated couples has been an extremely challenging issue for parents to navigate during the pandemic, but that court orders need to be followed.

“In the absence of a meeting of minds between the parents on this matter, the court  has made it clear that it expects that pre-existing orders, agreements and status quo arrangements are still to be adhered to and followed, with the application of the appropriate health protocols issued by the relevant authorities,” said Scharff.

“The fear of COVID-19 in and of itself is not enough to warrant a change in the parenting schedule absent convincing evidence that a parent is not adhering to COVID-19 directives," she added. 

Mark Epstein, of Epstien and Associates, told BarrieToday that while both parents should do their part to make sure everyone involved in the situation is safe, the status quo needs to be maintained.

“The courts are very clear that the agreements don’t change because of this or any situation, unless the court allows for the change,” Epstein said. “It is important for the children to be able to see both parents, especially during a time that can be scary for some.

"Maintaining the normal environment, safely, is important," he added. 

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner says the topic is generally beyond the scope of public health officials, but advises that everyone needs to continue to mind the precautions set out by the province.

“It's a complex (situation). Whenever you’ve got people moving between households, there would be an added risk,” Gardner said Friday. “It's hard for me to say definitively they shouldn’t do it, it would just increase the risk.”

— With files from Marg. Bruineman



Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based on Barrie
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