In this uncertain time, people are unsure of how or when they may get help with their family law matters. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Family Law Division of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench will only hear urgent and emergency matters. All other family law matters are being scheduled to a future date.
Urgent and/or emergency matters that will be heard by the Court include those related to:
- The safety of a child or parent, including applications for restraining orders, non-contact orders, and exclusive possession of the family home.
- The safety or well-being of a child, including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child.
- Dire circumstances of financial need, including the preservation of existing family property.
- Any other matter the Court deems necessary to hear on an urgent basis. The Court will strictly limit these other matters.
If a person believes their matter is urgent, they must file an application with the Court. The application and supporting documents will briefly set out the urgent circumstances. A Judge then decides whether the matter is urgent and whether to schedule a hearing date.
The Court may decide that a child custody or access matter is urgent if a parent is not allowing a child to spend time with the other parent – whether the time with each parent was previously court-ordered or not. A parent cannot keep a child from continuing to spend time with his/her other parent without a good reason.
It is understandable that parents are confused, worried, and wish to protect their child during the Covid-19 crisis. However, the best way to address those concerns is to communicate with the other parent in an attempt to ensure best practices to keep the child safe while in each parent’s care. The existence of COVID-19 in the community is not, in and of itself, enough reason to keep a child from continuing his/her contact with the other parent. Rather, some special circumstances would have to exist with the other parent that put a child at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Uncontested family law matters can also still proceed. So, if you and the other party have a signed agreement in place, you may be able to obtain your divorce and/or obtain orders for the agreement terms pertaining to child/spousal support and/or division of property orders that are agreed to by the parties. You should consult with a lawyer in order to see if you can obtain such an agreement and/or to get legal advice regarding the agreement you already have and whether or not you can move forward with an uncontested application to the Court.
Nancy Brown is an experienced Family Law lawyer and is able to assist you with questions about how to navigate the court system during the Covid 19 crisis.