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Digest of the Week | Custody and Access Enforcement During COVID-19

SAS v. LMS | 2020 ABQB 287 | Alberta Court of Queen's Bench

Family law --- Custody and access — Enforcement

Parties separated in 2013 after five years of marriage — There were two children, aged nine and 11 — Parties shared parenting on week on/week off basis — Father was accountant and mother worked as nurse — On March 18, 2020, parties discussed COVID-19 pandemic and mother suggest that father work from home — Parties nevertheless continued with weekly rotation of children — Mother learned father was taking children horseback riding and to father's office — Evidence differed over whether children remained in car or went into office — Because of concerns, mother advised father that children would remain in mother's care — Father brought application for finding that mother was in contempt of divorce judgment or, alternatively, for primary residence of children during pandemic — Application adjourned — There should be no unilateral withholding of access or parenting time except in true emergency situations where there was imminent risk to child's health or safety — Mother should have sought variation of existing order rather than threatening withholding children from father — Mother had legitimate concerns — Father acknowledged that friend/employee was regular visitor in father's home, although father claimed that stopped after mother raised concerns — Father provided no information as to how paperwork dropped off by clients was dealt with — Father remained willing to meet with some clients — Children indicated that father did not always follow social distancing rules, wear gloves while shopping or sanitize car after shopping — Father also ignored potential for transmission from horseback riding — Father needed to demonstrate commitment to scrupulous compliance and commitment to putting safety issues ahead of business issues — Application was adjourned for one week to allow parties to work out acceptable solution.
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