Pandemic restrictions in Calgary: Impact on family law cases

Posted March 15, 2022 by SpotCodes

Most Vancouver and Calgary family lawyers agree that if one of the spouses feels threatened, they should immediately get in touch with an experienced and qualified family law attorney.

The pandemic has strained family relations across the world and not just in Calgary. Research shows that the divorce rates have increased as well as violence towards women and children during this period. While the demand for family court services is high, there is not much that family lawyers can do. 

David Fraese, a leading family law firm in Vancouver and Calgary, said that Calgary family courts have suspended all hearings due to the Coronavirus other than those that are urgent and considered an emergency. Under such circumstances, it has become difficult to provide remedies to clients who want to process their divorce. 

Focus on Children’s Interest and Wellbeing

Calgary courts are concentrating on cases where there is a risk of violence or harm to one of the parties or the kids, or where there is a risk of one of the parents removing the child from the province. So, even though the courts are not hearing divorce cases, they are issuing emergency protection orders in cases of domestic violence.

Most Vancouver and Calgary family lawyers agree that if one of the spouses feels threatened, they should immediately get in touch with an experienced and qualified family law attorney. While the pandemic may have restricted their access to the court, the lawyers can help protect them from violence and harm. 

Family lawyers state that divorced and separated spouses should concentrate on parenting. Due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, co-parenting has taken a front seat. Many ex-spouses are dealing with co-parenting issues, especially if they are in the midst of a custody battle. 

The issue of parenting during the pandemic is a completely new problem, and due to the restrictions, most courts in Calgary as well as other places do not have the time to address changes in the parenting schedule. Nonetheless, some cases have been deemed urgent and courts have taken cognizance. One such case was Ribeiro v Wright, where Ribeiro, the mother, was the primary caregiver and had control over the ex-couple’s nine-year-old son. The mother wanted to get the father’s weekend with the child suspended as the father was not exercising social distancing, and the mother’s household was self-isolating. Hence, she wanted the court to suspend the father’s weekend access to the child. 

The presiding judge reassured both parties that the safety of families and kids was a priority to the court, and it was aware that the virus was disrupting and stressing out families. While most ex-spouses believe that they have to follow the directive of the judge, it is possible to modify it to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions. The judge emphasized that parents would have to give up their time with kids if they were exposed to the virus, had to travel, or were self-isolating. 

Some of the other observations made by the judge are as follows:

 - Parents may have to implement other safety measures and controls based on their individual risk factors and parenting schedule

 - The court will not tolerate or condone reckless behaviors that may needlessly endanger the wellbeing of the child or expose the child to the virus

 - Furthermore, the court reiterated that the pandemic is not a basis for suspending parental access or parenting time

Hence, parents who are self-isolating or looking for ways to reduce their ex-spouse’s access to their child during the pandemic should consider the following:

 - If the court takes up your application to restrict parental access of your ex-spouse during the pandemic, the burden of proof lies with you. You would have to prove that your ex-spouse is violating the government-mandated COVID-19 protocols.

 - On the other hand, your ex-spouse will be responsible for assuring the court that they are precisely following the necessary safety measures.

 - You and your ex-spouse should be ready to submit a modified parenting schedule that considers the child’s safety. If you do that, in all probability, the court would accept the revised parenting measures as long as you and your ex-spouse have mentioned the safety measures, including social distancing, in the revised parenting schedule. 

These observations by the judge hearing the Ribeiro v Wright case has provided direction to parenting cases during the pandemic. The court acknowledged that during the pandemic, it was important for the child to have access to both parents and this access cannot be withheld indefinitely. Hence, it would be unfair to expect children not to leave their primary residence during COVID-19. Therefore, it would be in the interest of the child if parents learn to cooperate rather than get into litigation. 

The Way Forward

Following the ruling by the judge in the Ribeiro v Wright case, several other courts have addressed interim applications for parenting during the pandemic. Hence, if you are concerned about how the pandemic is affecting family law cases, it is advisable to consult an experienced and qualified family lawyer

Some of the suggestions that these lawyers offer divorced spouses are as follows:

 - Ex-spouses should be ready to have a conversation and discuss the impact and challenges that COVID-19 is having on their ability to parent. Ex-spouses should not be averse to reaching out to one another to speak about their concerns and the measures they are taking to address the risks posed by the pandemic.

 - Rather than getting lawyers involved, parents can discuss these matters voluntarily so that things do not get complicated. 

 - The interest of the child should be paramount. If necessary, parents should agree to a cohabitation agreement. If this is the case, they should involve their lawyers to draft a mutually acceptable family law cohabitation agreement.

 - A cohabitation agreement can address any risk to the child during the pandemic and also take into account the concerns of both parents. The lawyers of both parties can review the agreement and put in solutions that can mitigate risks and still maintain the standing order and previous agreements by the parents

It is prudent to remember that the wellbeing and proper development of the child should be at the forefront and that is why parents should be able to cast aside their differences and ensure that they meet their childcare obligations and assist the child to enjoy a happy and healthy life. 

The Bottom Line

If you are interested in how family law cases are impacted by the pandemic in Calgary or Vancouver and what measures you can take to address your situation and concerns, it is advisable to consult a family lawyer, who is well-versed with the existing laws and how the courts view family cases in these difficult times. That will give you a much clearer picture and enable you to decide the best way forward. 

David Fraese Family Lawyers are available to guide you and help you make an informed decision.

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Issued By Davidson Fraese Family Lawyers
Website Family Lawyers Calgary
Phone (403) 460-1230
Business Address 605 5 Ave SW #2600, Calgary Alberta T2P 3H5
Country Canada
Categories Law , Legal , Services
Tags calgary family lawyers , child support , cohabitation agreement , divorce , family law firm in vancouver , family lawyer , prenuptial agreement , separation agreement
Last Updated March 15, 2022