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Parent Access Schedules & COVID-19

What happens when a parent insists on changing the parent access schedule and on more time during the COVID-19 pandemic:  Medu v. Medu. Many parents are currently struggling with the disrupted access schedules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. One parent may feel that the other is not exercising their access schedule appropriately and are seeking alternatives to this disruptive action. Family lawyers are looking at ways to respond to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on such situations.

The courts had to consider the parent access schedule situation above in the recent decision of Medu v. Medu, where the Father overheld the children for over a month to allegedly make up for missed access.

Facts

The Applicant (Mother) sought to enforce the parties 2018 Final Order whereby she had sole custody and primary residence of the parties’ three children, aged 5, 8 and 9. The Order provided for alternate midweek and weekend access and alternate-year statutory holidays with the Respondent (Father). On March break, the Respondent had the children for the week but did not return them at the end of the week. Instead, on March 28, 2020, the Respondent, in refusing to return the children, claimed he was entitled to make up time and a half of the “COVID vacation time” and took the children to a town in Northern Ontario without the Applicant’s knowledge, or consent.

Such extended access time was simply not in accordance with the parties’ Final Order.

Issue: Return of Children as a matter of urgency  

On April 21, 2020, the triage judge deemed this matter presumptively urgent and allowed the motion to be heard as a matter of urgency relating to the best interests of the children, recognized in the Notice to the Profession (dated March 15, 2020 and as further amended on April 6, 2020).

On April 24, 2020, by way of teleconference the Court heard the most urgent issue: the return of the children.

The court confirmed the urgency on the basis of the following factors:

  • The Respondent’s action of overholding the children;
  • The Respondent being in breach of a court order in an undisclosed location;
  • The Respondent’s failure to advise of the children’s whereabouts; and
  • The Respondent’s rescinded offers to the Applicant on various occasions confirming that he would be the returning the children to the Applicant;

Endorsement

As a result, the judge ordered that the Respondent ought to return the children as agreed between the parties for April 27, 2020 on an urgent basis.

If you are a parent struggling with the disrupted parent access schedules in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or are looking for legal advice on your parenting plan and related access schedules, contact Nussbaum law today and speak to one of our experienced lawyers.

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