We are all aware of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, the Ontario Government announced the closure of all publicly funded schools for two weeks following March Break, which is set to commence this Monday, March 16th.
March Break tends to be one of the busiest travel seasons... but not so much this year.
While most of us with travel plans have made the decision to cancel or reschedule, others are taking advantage of the cheap cost of travel and have decided to take the risk and travel anyway.
So what happens if your ex-partner is insisting upon taking your children away for March Break during his or her parenting time with the kids? Do they have to go? Do you have to sign the travel consent form as required by many international laws and custom officials?
The short answer: no.
But you should be aware that if you do refuse to sign a travel consent form allowing your children to go on vacation with your ex, he or she may bring forward a Family Court motion, seeking to dispense with your consent to travel.
When a parent is unreasonably withholding consent, the travelling party tends to be successful on this type of a motion, so long as the proposed travel is in the child's best interests.
But, in this time of COVID-19, it will likely be very difficult for a Family Court Judge to find such travel to be in the child's best interests.
Not only does the child risk being quarantined in the foreign jurisdiction amid increasing coronavirus concerns and border shutdowns, there is the very real and additional risk that child may actually contract the virus.
Even if your child isn't quarantined while away or ill with the virus, it is highly probable that he or she will be quarantined upon return to Canada. This would mean you – the non-travelling parent and presumed healthy one – wouldn't be able to see your child for the entire quarantine period. On top of that, there is a chance that the "self-isolation period" for your child could extend past the school shutdown ordered by the Ontario Government.
A prolonged absence from school could negatively impact the education of children who need additional assistance in school (exceptional pupils). This is a factor a judge will consider if asked to decide whether or not to allow a trip. Whenever you go to Family Court, it is important to make sure you have evidence to present to the judge about what truly is in your child's best interests.
All of these considerations suggest that travel outside Canada is currently not in a child's best interests (even though it in normal circumstances, most judges tend to support children travelling).
So say NO to travel... for now.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.