COVID-19 has caused so much anxiety and worry for parents.
Now your worries and concerns are almost reaching their breaking point with trying to decide how to handle the issue of the return of your children to school!
To make it even worse, what do you do when the other parent does not agree with your decisions about school starting this fall for your children?
The Ontario family court has developed over the last few months some key points that parents must follow in dealing with COVID-19 and parenting when parents are separated or divorced.
The court has stressed that there should be a presumption that existing parenting arrangements and schedules continue, subject to any necessary changes required to ensure that all COVID-19 precautions are being followed, including social distancing.
In some situations, for example, custodial or access parents may have to give up their times with a child, if the parent is subject to some specific personal restrictions, such self-isolation for a 14-day period as a result of recent travel, personal illness or exposure to illness.
In blended family situations, parents will need assurance that COVID-19 precautions are being followed and maintained in relation to each person who spends any amount of time in a household-including children of former relationships.
How do these family law rules apply to the decision whether a child shall return to school this fall?
If you have sole custody of your children, you can decide whether you feel comfortable returning your children to school. You have the choice to opt your children out of in-person delivery of education in school. As the provincial government has stated, this choice respects the fundamental role of parents in making the final determination whether they feel safe with their children returning to school this fall.
The other parent does not have a ‘say” in this decision when you have sole custody of your children.
If you have joint custody of your children, you and the other parent must consult with each other about whether your children should to return to school in-person this fall.
However, if you and the other parent disagree on whether your children should return to school in-person, the family court would probably allow the children to return to school since the court could take the view that the provincial government is putting in place adequate COVID-19 protocols that school administration, teachers, and children must follow in school in order to protect your children as well as teachers.
If you have the ability to make decisions about your children’s education under a parallel parenting arrangement with the other parent, you can still make the decision about whether your children will return to school in-person this fall. Likewise, the other parent can make that decision if they have the ability to make decisions about your children’s education under a parallel parenting arrangement.
Of course, the family court must examine the specific facts of your situation. For example, if your child has a compromised immune system, your child should probably stay out of school and take online learning until the risk of COVID-19 is drastically reduced.
Oh, by the way, did you know you can protect your family law rights and get essential information on settling your family law issues with your former spouse with the daily indispensable family law advice and tips at my FREE Facebook group?
Go here to find out more: Durham Region Separation and Divorce Legal Support Group