What Does A Return To School Mean For Divorced Or Separated Parents? feature image

What Does A Return To School Mean For Divorced Or Separated Parents?

The upcoming school year is likely on the minds of many parents and children as we enter the last few weeks of summer. COVID-19 upended the school year two years ago and last year saw a return to school, but one that looked vastly different than what children are accustomed to. With much of the country re-opened and segments of the population highly vaccinated, there are naturally many questions about what a return to school is going to look like, and what divorced or separated parents should keep in mind, should there be a dispute about a return to school.

What will the return to school look like?

The provincial government of Alberta has released information about what parents can expect with a return to school. The most recent information can be accessed here.

At this time, the plan is for students and staff to return to school in the fall. While a return to many of the pre-COVID-19 school experiences may be waiting, there are some actions that will be left in place to screen for and respond to potential COVID-19 cases. These include:

  • students and staff should screen daily for symptoms using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist
  • isolate if they have core COVID-19 symptoms or test positive
  • follow best practices to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses

In addition, the government has announced that individual school authorities will continue to have the ability to put into place additional measures, including physical distancing, cohorting, and masking requirements even if they exceed provincial guidelines or requirements.

What if parents can’t agree on whether school is safe?

One issue that came up a number of times over the previous school year was parents who were not able to agree on whether or not school was safe. A decision from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench sheds some light on how parents should expect to work through these disagreements.

In this case, the parents involved had separated in 2013 and had been co-parenting their children without the need for court intervention. The mother is a nurse and the father is an accountant. While the dispute in this situation was about access, the decision does address how parents should generally approach COVID-related disputes.

The mother was upset that the father was continuing to see clients during the pandemic, and that he would occasionally bring them into his office. She didn’t feel as though he was taking the pandemic seriously enough and attempted to revoke access.

The court stressed that it is important for parents to not make unilateral decisions during the pandemic, writing,

“ Everyone should be clear about expectations during this crisis. Parents want judges to protect their children. But with limited judicial resources and a rapidly changing landscape, we need parents to act responsibly and try to attempt some simple problem-solving before they initiate urgent court proceedings.”

HMC Law’s Family lawyers have a track record of successfully negotiating and mediating claims on behalf of our clients. Although we are capable advocates in the courtroom, we know that the best outcome is more often achieved through finding a solution that is mutually beneficial to you and your ex, and in coming to that solution amicably.  For advice about child custody and access matters, contact us online or call 1-800-480-3534.

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For articling student inquiries please contact Sean Jeffers at 403.261.3329 or sjeffers@hmclawyers.com

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