COVID custody case centres on Hamilton teens who are with mom in Newfoundland

newfoundland

An Ontario judge says he's wrestling with the issue of whether to order a woman and her three children to honour a family custody agreement by returning to Ontario or allow them to remain in Newfoundland to protect the kids from the mental health tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz describes the still unresolved case as unusual, noting both feuding parents agree on nearly all the facts and differ only in what they feel would be best for their children living through a global health crisis.

The judge's Jan. 25 interim decision explains that the case centres on three Hamilton teens who traveled to their mother's home province of Newfoundland and Labrador for a month-long stretch over Christmas.

The ruling says that while all three children struggled with pandemic-era life in Ontario, where significant public health measures have been in place for months to curb surging case counts, they've had a far happier experience in Newfoundland where both cases and government measures are much more limited.

The decision says the mother has opted to stay in Newfoundland for the teens' sake and is requesting permission to remain there until Ontario schools reopen to in-person classes, while their father is demanding their immediate return home.

In adjourning the matter until Feb. 12, Pazaratz ordered the parents to find a counsellor for their hardest-hit son and said the mental well-being of the family's youngest members deserves more time for reflection.