I don’t want to send my child to my partner for parenting time because of COVID-19. What can I do?

As of March 1, 2021, the term has changed to . And in most situations, the term has changed to . Now, all parents usually have parenting time.

Also, a person who isn't a parent or step-parent may get a to spend time with a child. For example a grandparent can get this order.

Unless you and your child are self-isolating or in quarantine, you're expected to follow your or agreement about parenting time or access.

You may need to make small changes to your order or agreement because of COVID-19. For example, your agreement or order may say something that you're not able to do now, for example, meet at a mall that's closed because of COVID-19.

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) has developed sample clauses and a sample parenting agreement dealing with social distancing that may be helpful when talking to your partner.

If you and your partner agree on changes to parenting time, you usually don't have to do anything else. You may want to put your agreement in writing, but you don't have to.

If you and your partner can't agree on parenting time, one of you might have to go to court. Before going to court, you must first think about using (ADR) or a family dispute resolution process if it's suitable for your situation. ADR might not be right for you if you've experienced abuse and cannot be protected in ADR.

No court order or agreement

If you don't have a court order or agreement, you are expected to follow your child's routine as much as possible. This means your child can continue to see both parents if that is what would normally happen.

COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse not to follow the current parenting schedule unless there is a good reason to believe it would put your child's safety at risk. If you want to stop parenting time, you need specific evidence or examples of behaviour or plans that do not follow COVID-19 recommendations. For example, if the other parent has recently returned to Canada but is not following the rule that they must self-isolate for 14 days.

If you and your partner can't agree, one of you might have to go to court.

Court proceedings

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, family courts were open only for urgent matters. Since then, the courts have gradually reopened. While some cases are being heard in-person, most are being dealt with by a telephone or video hearing.

For information about cases at the Ontario Court of Justice, read the question I have a family court date in the Ontario Court of Justice. What should I do?

For information about cases at the Superior Court of Justice, read the question I have a family court date in the Superior Court of Justice. What should I do?

If your matter is urgent, you may be able to get an emergency court date. The process for getting an emergency hearing is different in each court. It's best to contact your local court for more information.

If the court hears your case, it will listen to what you and your partner say and look at the evidence. It will then decide based on which solution is in the .

Legal help

Legal Aid Ontario

You can get summary legal advice and services 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.

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.

Mediation

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.

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