COVID-19: Family law during the pandemic
The health guidelines imposed by the public health authority can have an impact on the exercise of your rights and your children’s rights, particularly in matters of child custody and support payments or in relation to legal proceedings you’ve started or are about to start.
Child custody and access rights
The child custody schedule established before the pandemic does not change. One parent alone can’t decide to change their child’s custody. Concerns about possible contamination is not a valid reason for changing what the parents agreed on or what was set out in a judgment.
However, when a parent or a person living with the child has to self-isolate, the child must avoid going back and forth between one home and the other during that period. The regular schedule must resume at the end of the self-isolation period, however.
Visits between a parent and child must also be suspended when the parent with custody lives in a shelter for victims of conjugal violence that imposes isolation measures on its residents. In that case, contact between the child and the other parent must be maintained using technology (videoconferencing, telephone, etc.), to the extent possible.
For any other change you’d like to make to the terms of custody, you must come to an agreement with the other parent or obtain a judgment from the court.
All services provided by the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) and foster families have been maintained.
However, some services might be offered remotely to comply with the health guidelines and physical distancing requirements. Therefore, follow-ups with service providers, foster family visits, and visits supervised by certain organizations may take place by telephone or videoconference, rather than in person.
On the other hand, if a caseworker from the DYP wishes to visit your home, you can’t refuse access under the pretext that there’s a risk of contamination.
The pandemic is not, on its own, a reason to stop paying child support or spousal support. Unless there’s a judgment varying support, you must continue to make payments and Revenu Québec may proceed with a seizure for unpaid amounts.
If you’ve lost your job or your income has decreased, certain services can help you cancel or vary the support payment amounts:
- Homologation Assistance Service (HAS)
- Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires (SARPA)
You can also consult a lawyer or a mediator. These professionals can help you have support modified.
On March 15, 2020, most activities of the courts were interrupted. Since
June 1, 2020, judicial activities have resumed and security and sanitary measures have been put in place (e.g., obligation to wear a mask, hearings by videoconference, limit on the number of people in each room, etc.).
You started legal proceedings before the pandemic
To know the status of your file, you can contact Justice Québec’s client contact centre at 1-866-536-5140.
You have not yet started legal proceedings
The time limits for commencing certain legal proceedings were suspended between March 15, 2020, and September 1, 2020, that is, for a period of 5 months and 17 days. Therefore, if your time limit before the suspension was 3 years to institute proceedings, 5 months and 17 days have now been added to that period.
Professionals at a distance
Most lawyers, notaries, and mediators offer their services remotely to avoid direct contact between people.
Your rights and recourses during the pandemic
For any other questions on your rights and recourses during the pandemic:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Québec (Gouvernement du Québec)
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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.
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