COVID-19 FAQs: Family

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Courts

The courts are only hearing urgent matters. What counts as an urgent matter?

The following are considered “urgent matters” in family court:

  • anything relating to the safety of a child or parent
  • anything about the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or if a child has been taken or kept against orders
  • financial issues that impact child support
  • in a child protection case, all urgent or required events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a safe place and any other urgent motions or hearings

If your matter is at the Superior Court of Justice, a complete list of family matters that will be heard in each region is outlined on the notice from April 2.

If your matter is at the Ontario Court of Justice, a complete list of family matters that will be heard is outlined on their page defining urgent matters.

How do I file an urgent motion at the Superior Court of Justice?

The Superior Court has instructions on how to file urgent matters and how to schedule a hearing on their website. (Please scroll down to “B. Procedure to Bring an Urgent Matter.”)

You can also email your local courthouse to submit your forms and documents.

How do I file an urgent motion at the Ontario Court of Justice?

The Ontario Court of Justice has instructions on how to file urgent matters on their website. (Please scroll down to “Urgent Family Matters.”)

What forms do I have to fill out to file an urgent motion?

You will have to complete Form 14A and 14B. Please call us at 1‑800-668‑8258 to speak with a family lawyer for advice if you are unsure about anything with these forms.

  • Form 14B: Motion Form. You must write the orders you’re asking the court to make, as well as the rules and laws that apply to the facts of your case.

  • Form 14A: Affidavit (General). In this form, you give the evidence to show why you want the court to make the orders you’re asking for. You can attach any relevant documents to this form as an “exhibit.” Your affidavit must identify each exhibit that you attach, in an alphabetic sequence (for example, you may write “Attached as ‘Exhibit A’ is a copy of an access schedule, agreed upon by me and the respondent”). You must swear or affirm that the information in this form is true, and sign the form in front of a commissioner for taking affidavits. There are commissioners at all family court offices who will commission the form for free.

How will urgent matters be heard?

Urgent family law hearings will be held by secure conference recorded teleconferences (or videoconferences where available).

If an in-court attendance must happen, your local courthouse will coordinate with you directly.

I scheduled an urgent motion for access before the courthouse closed due to COVID-19. Will my urgent motion be heard as scheduled?

Your urgent motion is likely going to happen by teleconference or videoconference, but please call the courthouse to find out about the status and details of any changes.

What do I do if my matter is considered “non-urgent”?

All non-urgent matters will be rescheduled to a later date. Call the courthouse for more information or visit the court website.

If you and the other party are open to working things out between you, you can also reach out to a mediator to help you create a plan.

Where can I get more information on what the court’s COVID-19 protocols?

You can learn more about COVID-19 protocols on the court websites:


Access

Should my kids still go back and forth between me and their other parent and keep up with the access arrangement when we’re supposed to be social distancing?

The courts expect families to continue with their access, custody and support arrangements during the COVID‑19 crisis.

If you do not feel comfortable having your children move back and forth between your place and the other parent’s place, you should try and come to an arrangement with the other parent.

During this crisis, family courts will only be hearing urgent cases—and unless you can prove that the other parent is not following COVID-19 protocols and provide specific examples, your case will not be considered urgent and the court will not hear your case.

If you need more help in determining whether your case would be considered urgent, please contact us at 1-800-668-8258 to speak with a family lawyer for advice.

I’m worried the other parent is not following COVID-19 protocols when our child is in their care. What can I do?

If there are no restrictions in contact or communication between you, you should write to the other parent and ask them how they are practicing social distancing and following protocols. It is important to remember that unless there is proof that the other parent is not following COVID-19 protocols, the court will not consider your case urgent and will not hear your case until the courts resume handling non‑urgent cases.

If you are both open to it, you could ask a neutral third-party, like a mediator, help you to adapt your parenting plan.

I work at a hospital and the other parent has denied access to my children—even though I have a final order granting me access—because of concerns that my work environment is a risk. What can I do?

You should address the other parent’s concerns and outline how you are strictly following the COVID-19 protocols both at your workplace and in general.

If you still cannot come to an agreement and the other parent is not open to working this out with you or with the help of a mediator, you may file an urgent motion by completing the following forms:

  • Form 14B: Motion Form. You must write the orders you’re asking the court to make, as well as the rules and laws that apply to the facts of your case.

  • Form 14A: Affidavit (General). In this form, you give the evidence to show why you want the court to make the orders you’re asking for. You can attach any relevant documents to this form as an “exhibit.” Your affidavit must identify each exhibit that you attach, in an alphabetic sequence (for example, you may write “Attached as ‘Exhibit A’ is a copy of an access schedule, agreed upon by me and the respondent”). You must swear or affirm that the information in this form is true, and sign the form in front of a commissioner for taking affidavits. There are commissioners at all family court offices who will commission the form for free. (Please see the question below about how to have your affidavit sworn or affirmed.)

A judge will determine if your matter is urgent.

I have a verbal agreement with the other parent to alternate weekends with our child, but now the other parent says I can only Face Time or Skype with our child during COVID-19. Does my verbal access agreement with the other have any legal effect?

Parents are required to respect and comply with their visitation agreements—whether they are verbal or written—because it is in the best interests of the child.

If you have had a verbal access agreement that has been ongoing for a while (for example, a year) this establishes a visitation agreement called “status quo.”

You should respond to the other parent in writing, addressing all issues reasonably and appropriately. If you still cannot come to an agreement and the other parent is not open to working this out with you or with the help of a mediator, you may file an urgent motion.


Support

Will the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) garnish my Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to satisfy my child support obligation?

No, this money cannot be garnished. The CERB is considered a unique, time-limited benefit that cannot be garnished by the FRO.


Serving documents

During the COVID-19 emergency, do I still need to serve documents?

Yes, apart from serving in person, the same options for serving documents are available to you: mail, courier, fax, and by email or electronic document exchange like Dropbox or Google Drive. (You do not need to have permission from a judge to send by email during this time.) For more information, please read our guide to serving documents or read the Ministry of the Attorney General’s guide to serving documents.

How do I get an affidavit sworn by a Commissioner of Oaths during this time?

Contact the courthouse where you’re filing your documents and you will be given instructions on how you can get your documents confirmed/affirmed by a court official who is authorized to take affidavits.

If it’s not possible to email a sworn affidavit, you may be asked to send in an unsworn affidavit by mail or fax, and participate in a telephone or videoconference hearing to swear or affirm affidavits.