Nova Scotia Court Orders Father to Return Child to Mother Despite COVID-19 Concerns

April 21, 2020

At Cox & Palmer, we are working to ensure that we provide timely and responsive advice to our clients with custody and other family law issues, while keeping you up to date on recent legal decisions.

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) has ordered a father to return his son to the child’s mother despite COVID-19 concerns in McNeil v. Christie, 2020 NSSC 145.

The father had recently transitioned from supervised to unsupervised parenting time (but no overnights or weekends).

The father took the child for his daytime parenting time on April 9, 2020, and did not return the child to his mother. The mother filed an urgent motion on April 15, 2020. The court agreed to hear the motion on an urgent basis, in large part because the father was not allowed overnight or weekend parenting time under the most recent court order.

The father argued that he was quarantining the child at his home, because the child was exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19. His only evidence was that someone had coughed near the child. There was no evidence this person had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The father also argued that the mother’s boyfriend had returned from another province on April 5, 2020, and moved in with the mother without a period of self-quarantine.

The mother argued that the boyfriend did not self-quarantine because she needed child care to facilitate her completing a nursing program online.

Justice MacLeod-Archer found that, on the one hand, the father “manufactured a reason to keep the child with him, taking advantage of the current COVID-19 directives”. On the other hand, the mother’s argument that she needed child care was not a reasonable excuse for the boyfriend’s failure to self-quarantine. The child is not an infant or toddler and does not require constant supervision.

The judge ordered that the child remain with the father until April 19, 2020 (two weeks after the boyfriend’s return from out-of-province). Then he was to be returned to his mother, as long as the mother provided written confirmation that the boyfriend was not showing symptoms of COVID-19. The father is not permitted to have any further in-person parenting time until further review by the court.

If you have concerns about your rights and obligations with respect to parenting, custody or access arrangements due to COVID-19, contact a member of our family law team for advice.

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