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Oct 2020

Parenting in a Pandemic

By Jessica Chyc

A mother from Toronto was awarded temporary custody of her four-year-old child after the father actively and willfully disobeyed public health guidelines, claiming that COVID-19 was a “scamdemic”. When the father organized and hosted protests against public health measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the mother withheld the child from the father and went to court on an urgent basis to seek temporary sole custody and a continued suspension of the child’s in-person access with the father.

Prior to the pandemic, the father had the child in his care for six out of every fourteen days – the parties had near equal parenting time. However, due to the father’s lack of conscientiousness regarding COVID-19 and his conduct in the community and on social media, Justice Akbarali ordered a suspension of the father’s in-person parenting time on July 7, 2020. The Court further ruled that the father was to have video access three times per week. The mother was awarded temporary decision-making authority as it related to major decisions for the child. 

The father was a health and wellness coach who had previously refused to consent to the child receiving vaccinations, inclusive of a flu vaccination, against the wishes of the mother and the advice of the child’s pediatrician. The mother was eventually able to bring the child’s vaccinations up to date. Nonetheless, the father deposed he would likely oppose the child taking any vaccine related to COVID-19 because “children are at near zero risk from the virus”.  The father also claimed that deaths from the flu shot are greater than deaths from COVID-19.

The father was an active social media user and used online platforms to spread his message protesting against government mandates related to COVID-19. He had also repeatedly denigrated the mother on social media. He had livestreamed the mother’s full name, address, telephone number and business, ostensibly to have his followers bully her and destroy her business. After the mother withheld access, the father posted livestreams at her residence and encouraged his followers to “search for this woman” until he “had his son”.

The court ultimately ordered the father to take down the social media posts that related to the litigation or that denigrate the mother and to refrain from creating new social media posts on this topic. While the father was free to protest the government’s response to COVID-19, the court held that he could not have in-person access if he continued to disobey the government and public health protocols related to the virus. The father could apply to court for a resumption of access once he (1) tested negative for COVID-19 or self-isolated for 14 days, and (2) began following the government and public health protocols. The mother was awarded $16,500 in costs as the successful party.

 

**This article is intended only to inform and educate. It is not legal advice. Be sure to contact a lawyer to obtain legal advice on any specific matter.

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