Risk to child outweighs benefits of cottage vacation: court
A case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice revolved around the issue of whether it was in the best interests of a child to spend summer vacation in a rented cottage, considering the COVID-19-related risk arising from the presence of family members coming from multiple households.
In Moncur v. Plante, 2020 ONSC 4391, the child’s parents were separated and shared joint decision-making and parenting time. A court order included provisions dictating which parent could spend summer vacation with the child. This year, the father chose to plan a week-long summer vacation at a cottage in the Kawartha Lakes region, with the child’s paternal grandparents travelling from Leamington and the child’s paternal aunt and cousin travelling from Toronto.
The mother requested an urgent motion, objecting to the proposed vacation due to the risk of exposing the child to a situation breaching the provincial health protocols.
The Superior Court ruled in favour of the mother and prohibited the father from taking the child to the cottage. While the court acknowledged that both parents had demonstrated that they had been careful in complying with health and safety measures, the court found shortcomings in the father’s planned vacation.
“In pre-COVID times, the proposed family vacation would have been a fun, happy week for [the child],” wrote Justice Darlene Summers. “However, considering the current health threat and the evidence before me, I find the potential risk to [the child], and by extension to [the mother], outweighs the benefits of one week at the cottage.”
The plan was to merge the three households of the father, of the paternal grandparents and of the paternal aunt into one large social circle or “bubble.” The court said that, because there was no information presented regarding the aunt and the cousin and their social contacts, it could not assess the extent of the family’s social circle.
Separated spouses should include each other in their respective social circles before seeking to expand, pursuant to a social circling directive from the province. In this case, the mother objected to being a part of the larger social circle sought by the father, which the court said was reasonable. The court also considered the mother’s asthma, a condition which may increase COVID-19-related risk, as a factor.
“It has been said on many occasions that these are unprecedented and confusing times,” said Justice Summers. “What is allowed or not allowed is rapidly evolving.”