CAS has stopped in-person access because of COVID-19. What can I do?
All Children Aid Societies (CAS) in Ontario have stopped in-person visits because of the COVID-19 situation. This applies to supervised and unsupervised visits. CAS is worried there might be health risks for you, your child, CAS staff, and those living in the foster home or your relatives’ home. It may also be a health risk to the volunteers who drive people to their in-person access visits.
Check what your says about access.
If your court order says that access is at the discretion of CAS, then it means they’re allowed to decide how and when the access takes place. But CAS may still have a duty to try and find other ways to allow access. For example, through a Skype, FaceTime, or WhatsApp call.
If your court order has more detailed terms about access, for example, if it says you get 2 visits at a CAS office every week, then CAS must change the court order first. CAS may ask you to agree to another access plan during the COVID-19 situation.
CAS will have to bring a the order. If you agree, you don’t need to do anything else. If you don’t agree, then you have to respond to the CAS . If CAS doesn’t bring a motion, then you have to bring your own motion.
Ontario Court of Justice
As of March 16, 2020, Ontario family courts are only open for urgent matters. The court will likely agree that not seeing your child is an urgent matter and will hear the case.
Starting on May 19, 2020, some courts have started to deal with other non-urgent matters. Contact your local court for more information. You can find contact information for all courts here.
Depending on your situation, it may be possible for you to bring a regular motion asking the court to:
- order another way for you to get access to your child,
- place your child with another relative who will give you access to your child, or
- return your child to your care.
This is the first time we’ve faced a situation like the COVID-19 one. There are currently some cases in court that are trying to clarify what the CAS can and can’t do in this situation. We will update this information as we learn more.
Emergency family law referral telephone line
You can call the Law Society of Ontario’s temporary emergency family law referral telephone line if you have a family law issue and you:
- don’t have a lawyer
- don’t know if your issue is urgent or not
- don’t know your next steps if your matter is urgent
If this is your situation, the referral service will help you get 30 minutes of free legal advice and information from a family law lawyer. Call 416-947-3310 or 1-800-268-7568.
Legal Aid Ontario
You can get summary legal advice over the phone from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) at 1-800-668-8258 or, in Toronto, at 416-979-1446. Because of COVID-19, anyone can use this service to get legal advice and information at this time. It doesn’t matter what your income is. LAO’s goal is to have a lawyer respond to every family question it gets within 48 hours or less.
Each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of for a fee that is based on each person’s income and number of dependents. Fees start as low as $5 per hour. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free.
Mediation services are currently being provided online. Contact service providers for an appointment or more information.