Ontario Family Court Rules Against Divorced Father Seeking to Keep Child From In-Person Schooling

Divorce Lawyer Russell Alexander weighs in on first major case testing COVID safety protocols

LINDSAY, Ontario—The Superior Court of Justice has ruled against a divorced father seeking
to keep his child from attending school in person, in a major test of a custody issue coming up
during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a case watched closely by Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers, the court granted
a temporary order that the child should be registered to attend school in-person starting in
September, reviewing the issue at Thanksgiving or later, or considering a compromise in which
the student would attend school part of the day and be remote at another time.

“The pandemic has changed the calculus for many parents about decisions on everything from
schooling to family visits,” said Russell Alexander, the law firm’s founder. “We have been
watching closely to see how the courts respond to these new concerns, and now we have a partial

In Chase v. Chase, the court found that the decision to move ahead with in-person schooling was
made by the education system in accordance with medical experts, and that it fell within the
Ontario government’s purview.

While the father had raised concerns that reopening schools might be premature, requesting that
the child be taught at home until the safety protocols were proven successful, the court decided
that the school system was balancing those risks against students’ mental health, psychological,
academic and social interests, as well as parents’ need for childcare.

“In this case, the court didn’t side with either parent as much as it sided with the school system,”
added Alexander. “Since no one in the family had any underlying health conditions that made it
uniquely vulnerable, it seemed that the court was unwilling to override the school’s decision
based on the concerns of a single parent.”