In Balbontin v. Luwawa, 2020 ONSC 1996, the Court made an Order which suggested that a parent should provide information about the child’s health and wellbeing to the other parent, when requested, and assure the other parent that they are complying with COVID-19 protocols.
The parties in this case have a three-year old daughter together. Pursuant to a Temporary Order dated July 29, 2019, the mother had primary care of the child and the father had specified parenting time with the child every Wednesday and every other weekend.
The high conflict parenting dispute between the parties have been long-standing and the COVID-19 situation appeared to have only exacerbated the situation. The mother became increasingly concerned with the father’s parenting during the pandemic. On March 11th, the mother received a photo of the child in a playground when she was in the father’s care. On March 13th, she emailed the father to express her COVID-19 concerns and asked him to observe social distancing measures. The father did not respond to this email.
On March 14th, the mother provided face masks, hand sanitizer and disposable gloves for the child’s use and protection. The father appeared to have little interest in having the child wear a face mask. The mother sent another email on March 25th to repeat her concerns and indicated that she would be willing to work with the father to establish an emergency action plan should the COVID-19 outbreak impact his parenting time the child. The father did not respond to this email either.
Finally, the mother informed the father that if he fails to respond or provide any assurances that he is complying with COVID-19 protocols, then she may have no choice but to suspend access. The mother asked for information such as:
- Where the father was taking the child during access visits;
- Assurances that the father will not take the child to the playground;
- Confirmation that the father practices social distancing and complies with public health directives; and
- Whether the father’s roommates practice social distancing and spend time with the child during his parenting time.
After having received little to no information from the father in response to her concerns, the mother brought a Motion seeking to suspend the father’s access until he provides evidence of compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
In the Court’s view, the mother raised legitimate concerns regarding the child’s exposure to third parties. The mother did not make unreasonable requests and kept communications polite and child-focused. Instead of working with the mother, the father simply ignored her concerns and insisted that he is aware of public health directives and needed no input from the other. Given the importance of co-parenting during these difficult times, it was not acceptable for the father to refuse to engage with the mother when the priority should be ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the child.
As such, the Court ordered that the father’s parenting time will only be reinstated if he files an Affidavit that answers the mother’s concerns and provides the requested information to the Court’s satisfaction.
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