Family Law: Custody and Access Issues During COVID-19 Pandemic


By Written on behalf of Campbell Bader LLP

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most legal matters before the courts have been suspended. However, as explained below, some urgent family matters may still be heard.

Non-Urgent Matters Suspended

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Superior Court of Justice has suspended all regular operations, effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and until further notice,as noted on its website. This includes all criminal, family and civil matters.

However, some urgent family law matters may still be heard, including:

  1. requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent (e.g., a restraining order, other restrictions on contact between the parties or a party and a child, or exclusive possession of the home);
  2. urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child;
  3. dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including for example the need for a non-depletion order;
  4. in a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a place of safety, and any other urgent motions or hearings.

Moving parties/applicants must file urgent motion and application materials by email to the appropriate courthouse. The email addresses may be found here

Advice on Urgent Custody and Access Issues During COVID-19

In one of the first urgent family law motions filed in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court offered some advice. 

The triage judge in the case stated that 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 suspension of in-person parenting time and they should not presume that raising COVID-19 considerations will necessarily result in an urgent hearing. 

Explaining that the court will deal with COVID-19 parenting issues on a case-by-case basis, the triage judge offered the following guidelines:  

  • The parent initiating an urgent motion on this topic will be required to provide specific evidence or examples of behaviour or plans by the other parent which are inconsistent with COVID-19 protocols.   
  • The parent responding to such an urgent motion will be required to provide specific and absolute reassurance that COVID-19 safety measures will be meticulously adhered to – including social distancing; use of disinfectants; compliance with public safety directives; etc.
  • Both parents will be required to provide very specific and realistic time-sharing proposals which fully address all COVID-19 considerations, in a child-focused manner.  
  • Judges will likely take judicial notice of the fact that social distancing is now becoming both commonplace and accepted, given the number of public facilities which have now been closed. This is a very good time for both custodial and access parents to spend time with their child at home.

Get Advice

During this time of social distancing, at Campbell Bader, we have moved our full business online and we continue to meet all our clients’ legal needs by using online technology. Please email us at info@campbellbader.comfor assistance. In most cases, we will send a single link to clients, allowing them to join a meeting with just a click. 

Separation and divorce are challenging for everyone involved.  When dealing with custody or access disputes, matters involving spousal and child support, the division of assets, and other family issues, emotions can be your worst enemy. Having an experienced family lawyer on your side can help you stay focused and resolve disputes as quickly and amicably as possible.

At Campbell Bader LLP our family team has collectively spent more than twenty years advising clients about family disputes, including those involving high net worth individuals or complex matters.

We value and incorporate collaborative family law principles into our practice, but we’re smart enough to recognize when that approach won’t work for you and we adapt our strategy accordingly. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us online or at 905-828-2247.


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