October 8, 2020
After navigating back to school this fall, many parents are now also having to make decisions about whether their children should return to extracurricular activities. Many activities are resuming with an adapted “in person” attendance option.
After separation, a child’s participation in extracurricular activities is typically a decision made jointly by parents. Separated parents may not be in agreement about their child’s attendance at the moment. This post discusses some options to resolve the issue.
Parent co-ordination, mediation and arbitration are processes that parents may wish to use, if they do not agree and do not wish to go to Court. As always, parents should strive to have effective, low-conflict communication on these issues, using a medium that works for them. Some parents prefer to communicate in writing only, email or text, while others are able to have verbal discussions. Parent communication tools, like Our Family Wizard, can also help parents communicate effectively.
When considering a child’s participation in an extracurricular activity, parents need to be informed and weigh the various considerations. It would be helpful for parents to review both the provincial health protocols, as well as the specific and updated COVID-19 guidelines for each activity.
As of the date of this post, there has not yet been a written reported Alberta legal decision during the pandemic on a child restarting extracurricular activities, where parents disagree. Until our Courts comment specifically on the issue, parents may want to consider the following questions when trying to resolve the issue:
- What are the specific facts of the family/child and activity?
- Does the child or close family member have an underlying condition or circumstances that may increase the risk (of the child/family catching the illness, or the seriousness of the illness)?
- How is the activity adapting to COVID-19? Are they meeting provincial and municipal guidelines and what steps and protocols are in place? Look at the steps towards prevention of spread but also what will happen if there is a positive case, or the child is unwell and can’t attend.
- How will the child get there and back? Do the health protocols add any transportation issues, or other factors to look at?
- How important is the activity in relation to the child’s overall health and best-interests balanced with the risks to the child or family members?
- Are there options to mitigate the risk? For example, does the program offer virtual options? Can the child join the activity at a later date? Are there other modifications or different programs that would be lower risk, but permit some or different participation?
Each family will have their own circumstances and factors to consider. As always, the primary consideration is the best interests of the child.
If you need assistance navigating this or other types of family law issues, please do not hesitate to contact us to see how we may be able to assist you.
– Written by Ceri Chwieros