What can I do if my abusive partner won’t return my child during COVID-19?

Your abusive partner may be more likely to not return your children to you after a  visit during COVID-19 as a way of controlling you. Parenting time used to be called . They might say that the children are not safe with you because of COVID-19. For example, because you or someone you live with works in a place that puts you at risk or because you're living in a women's shelter. Or, they may have no real reason at all.

It can be difficult to talk to an abusive partner to deal with parenting time challenges, especially where there are increased concerns about the health and safety of your children.

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.

If your matter is urgent, you may be able to get an emergency court date.

Parenting time and , which used to be called , may be urgent matters. The safety of your children may also be an urgent matter. To get your partner to return your children to you despite COVID-19, you may need to an urgent .

The process for getting an emergency hearing is different in each court. It's best to contact your local court for more information.

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?

Each court decides how they will hear urgent cases and what qualifies as an urgent matter. This means that after you file your documents, a judge looks at them and decides whether or not your case is urgent. When deciding, they look at 4 main things:

  1. Your concern must be immediate and cannot wait to be resolved
  2. Your concern must have a big impact on the health, safety, or economic well-being of you, your children, or all of you
  3. Your concern must be real and practical; it should not be a “what if” situation that might or might not happen
  4. You must have detailed evidence to support why the situation is urgent

The court expects every parent to follow an existing or agreement, unless they have a good reason not to. There's a good chance the court will find your case urgent and hear it if:

  • you and your partner have a court order for decision-making responsibility and parenting time or you have an ongoing arrangement that you have both been following
  • your partner doesn't have a good reason to stop following it
  • your partner stopped following it only to harass you

If the court decides your case is urgent, you will probably have a telephone or video hearing. You have to present your evidence in writing to explain your situation. You will likely have to send a copy of your existing court order or agreement, explain how the plan has been working, and show the court that there's no real reason for your partner to keep the children.

You have to show how the children will be safe with you and protected from COVID-19. For example, you can give evidence that shows:

  • you're able to work from home
  • you don't work in a job that puts you at risk of getting COVID-19
  • you will follow all the COVID-19 precautions
  • you're living in a place that is safe for your children

It's important to include a lot of details in your documents. The court's decision will be based on how strong your evidence is compared to your partner's evidence, and the .

Once a decision is made, it is in effect immediately. This means you don't need to get an official order .

If you need legal support or advice, read the questions I’m being abused or have experienced abuse. Where can I find legal support during COVID-19?

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