Last month, we wrote about a case where the court refused to allow a child living with his mother in the United States to travel to Canada for parenting time with his father due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In another recent decision, the court addressed a similar issue and decided that a child living with her mother in Canada would not be allowed to visit her father in California over the summer due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The mother and father met online in 2007 and began dating in late 2012. The relationship was long distance: the mother lives in Vancouver and the father lives in California.
The parents have a daughter together, born in July 2014.
The parents have never lived together. It is unclear when their relationship ended.
Since her birth, the daughter’s primary residence had been in Vancouver with her mother. The father had exercised regular parenting time in both Vancouver and at his home in California.
As part of a 2019 consent order, it was agreed the father would have parenting time with the daughter for approximately six weeks each summer from mid-July to late August, with the exact dates to be agreed upon by the parents. The parenting time could be in California. The father had to purchase travel medical insurance for the daughter each time she travelled to the United States to visit him.
The father wanted parenting time with the daughter in California for approximately one month over the summer. He suggested July 14 to August 17, 2020, although he was flexible regarding dates.
While the mother had previously always agreed to the daughter going to California for lengthy visits with the father, she was concerned about the daughter travelling to California for a number of reasons, all of which involved the COVID-19 crisis, including:
1) Travel would place the daughter at risk;
2) The U.S./Canada border was closed and it remained unknown when it would open, and if it did open, whether it would remain open; and
3) The father would not be able to get medical insurance for the daughter that covered COVID-19.
The mother’s suggestion was that the father exercise his parenting time in British Columbia at any time.
The father opposed the mother’s idea because he wanted to have the daughter at his home with his family and said that he could not afford to holiday in British Columbia.
At issue before the court was whether the father could take the daughter to California for his parenting time during the upcoming summer.
The hearing was conducted on June 15 and 22, 2020, in Vancouver. The court’s decision was issued on July 3, 2020.
The court began by recognizing that not only had the COVID-19 pandemic made shared parenting challenging, but that in the case of parents who live in two different countries, the challenges were exponentially greater.
After hearing each parent’s evidence regarding the insurance issue, the court expressed concern that the father did not seem to understand the importance of obtaining travel insurance for the daughter. Additionally, the court stated that no evidence had been presented that the father would be able to purchase travel medical insurance for the daughter that covered the COVID-19 virus.
With respect to the issue of the daughter’s general safety, the court also expressed concern, stating:
“[The father] argues that he will keep [the daughter] safe. While I accept that he believes this and that he will do his best, no guarantees of safety can be made by anyone at this time. It is clear that travelling poses a heightened risk. […]
I too take judicial notice of the risks of the virus. As stated above, these are frightening, unprecedented times. Everyone is at risk, including children.”
Ultimately, the court concluded that, even if the father was able to get travel medical insurance that covered the virus, it was not persuaded that it was in the daughter’s best interest to travel outside British Columbia or to travel anywhere by plane. The court stated that both the medical and travel warnings were clear and that to allow travel outside of the province increased the daughter’s risk of exposure to the virus.
As a result, the court ordered that neither the mother nor father were to remove the daughter from British Columbia or to travel with her on an airplane until further order of the court or by agreement of the parents.
The court added that if the father wanted to exercise his parenting time, it would have to be in British Columbia until it was safe to travel. If the father was not able to so travel, the court urged the mother to allow increased FaceTime visits.
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