Canadian Lawyer

September 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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34 www.canadianlawyermag.com IN MARCH, just 11 days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, an Emergency Notice of Motion of Applicant was submitted to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Hamilton, Ont., for suspension of in-person access to a child. The child's mother said she did not want her son leaving the home for any reason, including seeing his father, whom she feared would not maintain social distancing for the child during periods of access. In Ribeiro v. Wright, Justice Alex Pazaratz Custody battles over access, increased domestic violence and anticipated spike in divorce rates are results of the pandemic, writes Elizabeth Raymer COVID-19's impact on family law found that the mother's motion was not urgent and that she had not established a failure or inability by the father to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. "If a parent has a concern that COVID-19 creates an urgent issue in relation to a parenting arrangement, they may initiate an emergency motion — but they should not presume that the existence of the COVID-19 crisis will automatically result in a suspen- sion of in-person parenting time," wrote Pazaratz. "They should not even presume that raising COVID-19 considerations will necessarily result in an urgent hearing." After that decision, "people were still trying to withhold [access], but [now] people are doing that less and less," says Taryn Simionati, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Guelph, Ont. "Now . . . the courts have been very consistent on whether or not they're going to allow changes to the access schedule," and Ribeiro v. Wright established that a parent must "provide specific evidence" that the other parent was not observing COVID-19 safety measures. Custody battles over access, whether LEGAL REPORT FAMILY LAW

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