By Introducing New Girlfriend to Kids, Dad Violated COVID-19 Guidelines, Court Finds
In a case called Marino Belen v. Marino, the parents had two children who had been living primarily with the mother since separation in January 2019. They came before the court to obtain a parenting order and to finalize the issues relating to support, among other things.
Incorporated into the mother’s request for a parenting order were numerous complaints about the father’s child-rearing decisions (e.g. that he incorrectly installed the children’s car seats, accepted video-calls while driving, and did not having fencing around his swimming pool). But – as the court found – her key concern related to the father’s new girlfriend.
The court explained:
Social Circle …
The mother’s most important complaint, however, is that the father has not been following Covid-19 guidelines. Based on the children’s statements to her, the mother alleges (and the father acknowledges) that he introduced the children to his new partner and her two children, the details of whose involvement with the children have not been shared before this motion, despite her requests.
The court expounded on why the mother found this troublesome:
This is a major concern to the mother because she and the children are in regular contact (two to three times a week) with her elderly parents who are, especially in her father’s case, at an increased risk of harm. The maternal grandfather is 77 years old and, according to his physician (a note from whom accompanied the mother’s evidence) has a “complex and involved medical history that put (sic) him at a very high risk of a bad outcome should he develop a Covid19 infection”. The mother said that her father suffers from severe asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and was recovering from recent cancer treatments. The physician explained that his patient should comply with all provincial and national guidelines and restrict his contact with other persons who might be at risk of having or carrying the infection.
In a nutshell, the mother accused the father of breaching the government’s published COVID-19 guidelines in several respects when he introduced the new girlfriend to the children.
For one thing, he had not identified the girlfriend’s name to the mother, nor had he sought her agreement prior to making the introduction, as the guidelines mandated. In light of these concerns, the mother now asked the court to order that the children’s Covid-19-related “social circle” be limited to the father, the mother, and the mother’s parents only. She also asked that the court affirmatively order that the father’s overnight access time with the children was to take place at his home only, and that he was not to permit any third parties into the home (including his new girlfriend) when the children were there.
The father resisted; he felt the mother’s allegations had a hidden motive. He conceded that he had not shared his girlfriend’s name, nor asked the mother in advance for her consent. But this was because the mother had endured anxiety and panic attacks since learning that the father was dating someone new, and he was concerned she might engage in stalking or intrusive behaviour. In the father’s view the mother was merely using the COVID-19 guidelines as an excuse to prevent the father and his new girlfriend from seeing each other, and to block the father’s attempt to incorporate her into the children’s lives.
After hearing the evidence, and while acknowledging the father might have legitimate concerns over the mother’s potential to stalk, the court agreed that the father had breached the social circle guidelines. The guidelines did mandate that everyone must give their agreement in advance to have someone new join the social circle.
But to move matters forward, and against the broader background of its parenting orders and other remedies, the court tailored the order to specify incorporate the father’s new relationship. It expressly designated that the children’s “social circle” – consisting of up to 10 people – would now include children themselves, the mother, the father, the maternal grandparents, the father’s girlfriend, and her two children.
The father and mother were also ordered to ensure that the social circle members continuously complied with the government guidelines, and that the children also adhered to court-stipulated restrictions around attendances at indoor and outdoor events. The terms of the court’s order could be changed by both parents providing their written consent, or by order of the court.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Marino Belen v. Marino, 2020 ONSC 6124