A recent court decision involving a separated couple and their eight-year-old son is highlighting just one of the many difficult issues split B.C. families are facing during the ongoing pandemic – exacerbated when one of those parents is working on the front lines of COVID-19.
According to the court documents, the mom – named SR – is a licensed practical nurse, working at a hospital in B.C. on a casual basis. The father – referred to as MG – operates a demolition company.
The pair, both worried about limiting their son’s exposure to the novel coronavirus which has no cure or vaccine, took their concerns to a B.C. provincial court judge earlier this week.
Typically, the son stays with SR during the weekdays and with MG on the weekend. He was with MG for a week in March because SG was planning a trip to Mexico, which was later cancelled due to the travel restrictions. The son stayed with his father anyways.
Court documents show that SR had treated a patient who had COVID-19 on March 21, sparking concern by MG who wanted her to self-isolate for two weeks before seeing their son in person.
During this time, he offered for his new partner to bring the eight-year-old to SR’s apartment, where should could check in on him and visit from her second-floor balcony.
SR said she follows every precaution recommended while working, such as wearing hospital-issued scrubs, leaving her shoes and clothing at work and wiping down bag and showering as soon as she gets home.
But when the pair came to an agreement that their son would return to his mom’s care on March 28, SR requested a couple hours the next day to “do more research to feel 100 percent positive that she was making the best decision, as it was weighing on her so heavily.”
Part of those concerns were for transmitting the virus to her son, but also putting MG’s elderly parents at risk.
Meanwhile, MG said he has taken a number of steps to mitigate contracting the virus, including asking his employees to stay at home if they feel sick. He is the only person that visits the office from Monday to Friday. All of his employees “have agreed only to attend work and home, with one person in their home getting supplies while wearing protective gear.”
Limiting son’s exposure the biggest concern, parents agree
Both parents expressed that their biggest concern was keeping their son safe during the ongoing pandemic. SR said that if she had to chose between her son and her job, she would pick her son.
In her written decision, Judge Patricia Bond said the case was one with very little precedent to fall back on.
“There is very little case law on the considerations that should apply in assessing whether a parenting time regime should continue in circumstances of those service providers who continue to work with the public during the pandemic,” Bond wrote.
“These include everyone from clerks at the grocery store, to medical professionals working in clinics and hospitals, police officers, social workers, fire officials, paramedics, etc.”
But she also recognized that SR “is taking every conceivable step to mitigate that risk and has personally agonized over the possibility that she could infect another family member,” and that her son isn’t at elevated risk for seeing adverse impacts from the virus, like with the elderly or those who are immunocompromised.
Bond added that there is no need for SR to have to pick between her love for her son and her job – one that Bond called “a fundamentally important role” in the fight against COVID-19.
“The community expressed the importance of that role every evening at 7 p.m. as people cheer and shout their support,” she wrote.
In turn, Bond ruled that the pair’s son would be in SR’s custody for the next two weeks and that SR couldn’t work during this time. After that, SR and MG would have parenting time with their son on a rotating basis of seven days in SR’s care followed by four days at MG’s home. While the boy is in SR’s care, she cannot work, Bond said.
If either of the parents became at risk of contracting the virus, they should immediately contact the other to limit their son’s exposure.
Bond said her decision was “is in part a result of my confidence that both parties will do the right thing to protect their son as this situation continues to change.”