Since 2020, parents and children alike were compelled to make significant adjustments in their daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that kids have returned to in-school learning it may look as if families in Ontario are returning to some sort of normalcy. However, the family justice system is facing many new challenges.
There has been a significant increase in family separations since the beginning of the pandemic. I speak daily with Ontarians who share their similar experiences of increased family conflict and, in some cases, domestic violence. This coupled with the pandemic’s financial burden means that the demand for affordable family law services is at an all time high.
The pandemic’s effects on children cannot be ignored. Efforts to enforce COVID-19 compliance, the switch video-chat or telephone parenting time (previously “access”), and changes to parenting schedules are now common items included in court orders.
In light of changing government restrictions, it appears as though certain changes in the justice system are here to stay. Electronic filing of court documents, remote hearings, and parenting time via videoconference help families resolve disputes.
The pandemic presents significant challenges to families and will likely continue to do so as more COVID-related concerns are raised in court. Disagreements over vaccinations for school-aged children, resuming in-person parenting time, and after-school extra-curricular activities are emerging issues.
The family justice system will continue to be strained. Parents must be resilient yet reasonable. To the greatest extent possible, matters should be resolved out-of-court with the assistants of lawyers or family law mediators. Families require support more than ever and we need to be innovative at this critical time.
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