Custody Orders and Changes of Custody During the Pandemic
1. I’m worried about COVID-19 transmission risks arising from changes of custody of my child.
Several situations may occur during this pandemic:
- One of the parents tests positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms;
- Someone in the family’s circle tests positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms;
- The child tests positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms;
- One of the parents, the child or someone in the family’s circle has to self-isolate after a trip abroad.
In these cases, 14-day self-isolation is required to contain the spread of the virus. During this period, the child will not be able to move from one home to another if someone on one side or the other is in self-isolation. The goal is to contain the spread of the virus.
If you’re worried about the precautionary measures taken by the other parent but none of the above situations apply, it’s best to discuss among yourselves to attempt to remedy the situation.
2. Should I comply with the custody and access order?
Previous agreements, whether a custody or access order or an agreement between the parents, for instance following family mediation, should be complied with to the greatest extent possible. However, given the current situation, everyone should use common sense and follow the public health recommendations.
Everyone has a part to play in reducing the spread of the virus and should collaborate and follow the health recommendations. This also applies to separated parents and families where the child may have to move from one household to another.
3. What can I do if I can’t come to an agreement with my ex?
Children have essential needs, which can include having access to both parents and being sheltered from tension between parents.
If there is a disagreement, parents can call on a family mediator to facilitate discussion and work on resolving the conflict. Many mediators work remotely, which helps avoid physical contact and maintain distancing measures.
Some mediation sessions can even be free depending on your situation.
For more information about mediation, mediation costs or to find a mediator, visit the following section in the Ministère de la Justice’s website: « Family mediation - Negotiating a fair agreement ».
4. How can I limit inconveniences for my child if it becomes hard to respect the usual custody rights?
If a child needs both parents, we recommend making communication possible through technological means (Skype, Facetime, etc.) for the duration of the crisis.
5. We have joint custody, which means moving from one household to another throughout the week. Should we maintain this system?
The custody or access order should be complied with as much as possible. However, during this pandemic, you can try to work out new terms with the other parent to minimize travel.
6. We live in different regions. Should we still proceed with the change of custody?
The custody or access order should be complied with as much as possible. However, during this pandemic, people are asked to limit travel between regions as much as possible. You can try to work out new terms with the other parent to minimize travel and agree to maintain contact through technological means.
If the change of custody involves travel to a health region where travel restrictions have been implemented, the parent must explain to the police officers that he or she is carrying out a change of custody or exercising an access right. Travel should be permitted whether the custody or access right was granted by Court order or pursuant to an agreement.
You can call on a family mediator to facilitate discussion and work on reaching an agreement. Many mediators work remotely, which helps avoid contact. You can find a list of accredited mediators on the MJQ’s website.
7. I’m worried because my ex-spouse works in healthcare.
The healthcare system is taking the necessary measures to protect its staff.
8. I’m worried because my ex-spouse takes public transit.
Public transit services are still running and are essential for people such as healthcare and social service workers to commute to their jobs.
Québec transit companies have increased the maintenance frequency of their vehicles and installations. Commuters are still encouraged to follow health recommendations and keep two metres apart whenever possible.
Commuters are also encouraged to adjust their commuting schedule if possible to reduce crowding during peak hours.
9. How can I get legal advice for my specific situation?
Citizens who have questions of a legal nature can consult online resources available on the website of the Ministère de la Justice or Éducaloi.
The Community Justice Centers can also be consulted for free information, support and referral services.
To reach a lawyer, it is possible to contact legal aid offices, childcare services in criminal matters or the directory of lawyers of the Barreau du Québec.
For free assistance services for victims, their relatives and witnesses to a crime, the Crime Victims Assistance Centres (CAVAC) can be contacted.
10. Where can I find general information about family law?
You can find information on the following websites:
- Ministère de la Justice
- Family mediation - Negotiating a fair agreement
- Children: a joint responsibility
- « Separation and divorce » section
- Éducaloi : « Separation and divorce » section.
You can call Info-Social 811 (free psychosocial hotline open 24/7):
Call Info-Social 811 if you are experiencing:
- stress, anxiety;
- prolonged emotional reactions (frequent crying, irritability, etc.);
- feelings of panic;
- overwhelming and frightening thoughts that won’t go away;
- social repercussions from the illness.
Psychosocial intervention professionals will provide support and give you advice and information based on your needs.
If you did not find the answer to your question in this section, you should contact the Ministère at 1 866 536-5140.