COVID-19 & ONTARIO FAMILY LAW - NEW CHALLENGES, NEW SOLUTIONS

INTRODUCTION

FROM GENE C. COLMAN: The current virus crisis has presented extraordinary challenges to separated parents and their lawyers. This predicament requires that we all use common sense and try to work cooperatively to craft solutions that prioritize children's needs. Unfortunately, some parents might not be able to be sensible and that's why it is important to have an Ontario family law lawyer who is sensitive but proactive when dealing with COVID-19 custody-access parenting time issues (and even child and spousal support issues).

Here are some resources that parents will hopefully find useful:

CUSTODY, ACCESS, PARENTING TIME

CHILD & SPOUSAL SUPPORT

Gene C. Colman Blog Post re need to modify Ontario support enforcement measures (coming soon) or otherwise to be entitled, "How the government needs to reign in the Family Responsibility Office while we are under COVID-19 attack so that support payors will not be beaten into depression, anxiety, hopelessness, despair, loss of driver's license, and other terrible things".

NOTICES RE CLOSURES AND RESTRICTED ACCESS TO ONTARIO FAMILY COURTS

Which Court?: In Ontario, Family Law cases may be heard in the Ontario Court of Justice, in the Superior Court of Justice, or in the Unified Family Court where such courts exist (the U.F.C. is at the Superior Court of Justice level). Locations of unified courts can be found here. First you need to know where your case should be, especially if you believe that you have a truly emergency matter. You don't want to end up going to the wrong court.

Court closure solutions?: Here are a few ideas that lawyers (yes, lay people too) can use to try to overcome blockages caused by court closures:

  1. Engage the other lawyer proactively, respectfully and constructively.
  2. Try to solutionize with the other lawyer together rather than just bombastically threaten.
  3. Provide authoritative information re health risks and how they can be minimized when dealing with children transferring residences.
  4. Where health risks mandate keeping the children in one location, if you act for that parent ensure that the other parent has ample face time via computer, smart phone, etc. Enumerate with the other side the privacy ground rules for such contact. It would be a good idea to have the parents sign on to such ground rules.
  5. Where the other lawyer will not work cooperatively, propose solutions in writing. You are creating a written record. There will ultimately be a day of reckoning.
  6. Show how a private justice solution will bring peace of mind to both parents. In other words, use Mediation, Mediation/Arbitration ("Med Arb"), Arbitration.
  7. Where the support payor has become unemployed, try to work together to have limited funds meet the needs of the children as much as possible.

COVID-19 FAMILY COURT CASES

  • S.A. v. Y.M., [2020] O.J. No. 1161, 16 March 2020, Justice S.B. Sherr, Toronto Ont. O.C.J., at paragraph 84 [The judge excludes from father's time extra March Break time on account of Covid-19.]
  • Smith v. Sieger, 2020 ONSC 1681, [2020] O.J. No. 1120, 18 March 2020, Justice R.P. Kaufman, Newmarket Ont. S.C.J.
  • Ribeiro v. Wright, 2020 ONSC 1829, 24 March 2020, Justice A. Pazaratz, Hamilton Ont. S.C.J.
  • Onuoha v. Onuoha, 2020 ONSC 1815 24 March 2020 ruling by Justice L. Madsen, Kitchener (Ont. S.C.J.)