Q&A — Parenting

During the pandemic, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has said in-person visits are suspended and replaced by virtual visits. You can ask to maintain connections with your children in caregivers’ homes by phone and Skype visits. You may have exceptional circumstances that require in-person visits. Please see the MCFD bulletin for more details. 

A pandemic generally doesn’t prevent parents from following a parenting order or agreement, especially if the risk to the child or the parents is extremely low or non-existent. This means that during the current health emergency, you must follow parenting court orders or agreements, unless it would increase the risk of COVID-19 for the child, their parents, other household members, or the community. 

Increased risk and exceptions

At this time, a child should not go to the other parent if the parent or any member of their household:

  • has been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
  • is ill with symptoms of COVID-19, needs to be tested, or tests positive for COVID-19.
  • is older or immune compromised.

At this time, parenting time should also be suspended if it:

  • normally happens in a public place such as a community centre, mall, or restaurant, or
  • must be supervised (unless the supervisor is the parent’s spouse and lives in the home).

If either parent or anyone in their household is in an essential service job or works with the public — such as a doctor, nurse, supermarket or pharmacy worker, flight attendant, etc. — the parents should discuss their specific situation and the risk of exposure and make a decision about parenting time that is in the child’s best interests.

Try to reach a solution together

If an exception applies to your situation, discuss your concerns with the other parent and try to come up with solutions together. Regular or increased telephone or video calls can help a child stay connected with their other parent until things return to normal. You might also consider giving the other parent some of your parenting time in exchange when the situation changes.

If you both agree on how to deal with parenting time, it may be helpful to put your agreement in writing (though you don’t have to). If you do, you can adapt these Template Social Distancing Clauses for Parents or these Possible COVID-19 clauses to suit your situation.  

At this time, travel within British Columbia isn’t restricted, and there is no law that says that you or your child can’t leave your home, so follow your court order if you can do so without risking anyone’s health.

On April 6, 2020, BC Ferries issued a Travel Advisory asking customers to avoid non-essential travel, especially to communities with limited supplies, healthcare equipment, and resources. Following a parenting time order would be considered essential travel, as long as that travel doesn’t put the child, either parent or their household, or the community at increased risk for COVID-19. (If you are travelling on a ferry, you can remain in your vehicle for the duration of the trip).

Find the latest information about COVID-19 (including travel restrictions) online:

Get some help 

If you need more help, you can contact a Family Justice Counsellor or a family law mediator; see Who can help you make an agreement? for more information. During the current health emergency, Family Justice Counsellors are available through technology.

If one or both of you are in self-isolation, and your conflict is connected to that isolation, you can get a mediator through MediateBC. You must pay for this service (and discounted rates are offered).

Ask the court to make a new interim order

If you still can’t agree, you might have to ask the court to make a new interim order to change parenting time.

Since March 18, 2020, BC family courts are only open for urgent matters, including urgent orders involving parenting time. Each court decides how they will hear urgent cases. Contact the court in your area to ask what process they’re following for urgent matters. For example, they may take applications by email, telephone, or fax.

If the court hears your case, it will listen to what you and the other parent say and look at the evidence and then decide which solution is in the best interests of the child.

If you, your child, or the other parent must be in self-isolation, a court is likely to agree that a child should stay where they are until the need for self-isolation has passed. Otherwise, you must follow court orders for parenting time.

At the moment, people are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they:

  • have returned to Canada from another country,
  • have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or
  • have symptoms of COVID-19. 

Try to reach a solution together

If you do need to self-isolate, it’s a good idea to discuss the situation with the other parent and try come up with solutions together. Telephone or video calls can help your child stay connected to their other parent until things return to normal. You might also consider giving the other parent some of your parenting time in exchange when your self-isolation ends. If you can both agree about this, you usually won’t have to do anything else. You can put your agreement in writing, but you don’t have to.

Get more help if you need it

If one or both of you are in self-isolation, and your conflict is connected to that isolation, you can get a mediator through MediateBC. You must pay for this service (and discounted rates are offered).

Ask the court to make a new interim order

If you try mediation and still can’t agree, you might have to ask the court for a court order to change parenting time while you’re in self-isolation.

Since March 18, 2020, BC family courts are only open for urgent matters, including urgent orders involving parenting time. Each court decides how they will hear urgent cases. Contact the court in your area to ask what process they’re following for urgent matters. For example, they might take applications by email, telephone, or fax.

If the court hears your case, it will listen to what you and the other parent say and look at the evidence and then decide which solution is in the best interests of the child.

Don't see your question here? Email us.

Back to Your questions answered

Page last updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2020, 16:30 hrs

Wellness

The COVID-19 pandemic affects every aspect of life. Things are difficult and stressful for everyone, but it's important to remember that this situation is temporary, and that life will become more normal in time.