Child custody and coronavirus: How to manage co-parenting during a pandemic in Saskatchewan

Self-isolation can be tough amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for kids who have parents living in different homes.

The number of cases in Saskatchewan has risen to 176, with the province’s first two deaths reported on Monday.

Co-parenting in the COVID-19 crisis

It can be confusing whether to follow custody orders, according to one family lawyer. Still, he says it’s best to follow your custody agreement or work something out with the other parent.

But if one parent is worried about the safety of their children, they can stray from that order.

“You have got to be careful that it’s actually a concern, that it’s reasonably a concern,” warned Mark Galambos with the WMCZ Family Law Group in Saskatoon.

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“If it isn’t and it was just your misunderstanding as to somebody following the COVID-19 protocols or not, that might be something that might backfire down the road once our systems are up and running.”

He said in situations where one parent may not be following precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the other parent can prove it, it “might justify in varying from the order.”

Galambos said there are two goals in custody cases: what’s best for the child’s safety, and what maximizes the amount of time they spend with both parents.

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The Saskatchewan government restricted access to provincial courthouses to only necessary proceedings.

The Court of Queens Bench is still open in Saskatoon for urgent or emergency situations, including to deal with some custody orders in cases where a child’s safety is at risk, according to Galambos.

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This could also be used for parents fleeing violent situations.

“There could be abuse, where you want to get a restraining order in place or exclusive possession of a family home because there is abuse going on,” Galambos explained.

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“That’s something we could probably get in an emergency situation.”

For now, Galambos said, it’s best to follow custody orders or work out an alternative, either with the other parent directly or through a mediator like a friend or outside third party.

As for child support payments, he said it’s “very likely” some sort of reduced support payment plan will be created to help parents in the short-term.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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