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Digest of the Week | Variation of Custody Orders and COVID-19

Ribeiro v. Wright | 2020 ONSC 1829 | Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Family law --- Custody and access — Variation of custody order — Miscellaneous

COVID-19 — Parties had joint custody of nine-year-old son since final order in 2012 — Children's primary residence had always been with mother and father had access, which he currently exercised on alternate weekends — As result of global COVID-19 pandemic, mother and her family were practicing social isolation in their home and she did not want child to leave home for any reason — Mother was concerned father would not maintain social distancing from child during periods of access — Mother brought motion on urgent basis to suspend all in-person access because of COVID-19 — As result of global COVID-19 pandemic, which had suspended regular court operations, matter was referred to triage judge for determination as to how to proceed — Matter was not authorized to proceed on urgent basis — Mother's COVID-19 concerns were well-founded, but she had not established failure, inability or refusal by father to adhere to appropriate COVID-19 protocols in future — There was existing court order and it was presumed that order would be respected and complied with and, moreover, that it reflected determination that meaningful personal contact with both parents was in best interests of child — Children's lives and vitally important family relationships could not be put on hold indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset — Blanket policy that children should never leave primary residence, even to visit other parent, was inconsistent with comprehensive analysis of best interests of child.
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