SEPARATED PARENTS - WILL THE COURT ORDER ONLINE OR IN-PERSON SCHOOLING? IT DEPENDS.............

Mom and Dad are separated, with minor children.

They had a dispute about whether the kids should attend remote, online learning or attend school.

They escalated their dispute to the Family Court.

The Court held they would attend online learning for one semester.

The Court noted:

The policy of the provincial government is that in-person school attendance is optional for the 2020-2021 school year. If parents decide their children should not return to the physical classroom, remote learning is available. This flexibility allows parents to make the best decision for their family. However, this model breaks down where parents have separated and are not like-minded about their children’s best interests. That is the case for [these children]. The result for them over the past weeks has been ambiguity and confusion about their return to school plus increased conflict between their parents on the heels of what has already been many months riddled with change and uncertainty……..There can be no doubt that the school environment offers children social, psychological, and developmental advantages. The question here is whether those benefits outweigh the physical risks of returning to that environment in the context of this two-household family?" 

The Court considered many factors in its decision-making, weighing in favour of minimizing the dispute and declaring online learning would be appropriate, at least temporarily.

So said the Court:

… I take notice of the information widely repeated in the public domain that very young children are likely to be at higher risk due to their immature immune systems.  A return to in-class learning brings increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and, in turn, increased risk of transmitting the virus to vulnerable family members. It is a risk that I find unnecessary, for this family, at this time. [The children] are good students and are surrounded by trained educators in both households to help them, if needed. Their mother will be in the home every day at least until late January 2021 to guide and supplement their online learning. I am also satisfied that both parents are attentive to the girls’ need for social interaction, social learning, and physical exercise.

…. For these reasons, I find it is in [the children’s] best interests to attend school virtually for the 2020 fall semester and to do so from their mother’s home.  The father is away from the home during the day and the other members of his household are working, either from home or away from the home.

Most important, the Court yet again cautioned separated parents to act flexibly, reasonably and in the best interests of children, which rarely involves a heated, protracted Family Court proceeding. 

I encourage the parties to make every effort to resolve this issue quickly and focus on reducing the conflict between them, especially as the children return to their studies and grapple with the many challenges and changes the world continues to present.  I also urge the parties to consider the most sensible schedule for the children in the context of all their needs and best interests. [The children] deserve nothing less.

The Case:

Joachim v. Joachim, 2020 ONSC 5355


Thank you for reading this - Jason Ward of WARDS LAWYERS PC.

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