COVID-19 legal questions

The information on this page is not legal advice. We encourage you to get legal advice about your specific situation.

Last updated: May 17, 2021


Parenting arrangements, child and spousal support

 

I have an agreement or court order that says the other parent has parenting time or contact with my child. I am concerned my child may become exposed to COVID-19 during their time with the other parent. Do I need to follow the agreement?

You must comply with an agreement or court order that gives parenting time or contact with a child to another person.

  • The terms of an agreement or order are not automatically changed or paused because of the COVID-19 situation
  • Continue to follow existing parenting arrangements, cooperating to make changes needed to follow all COVID-19 guidance issued by B.C.’s public health officer
  • Each family will have its own unique issues and complications

Do not use COVID-19 as an excuse to change the current parenting schedule unless there is a good reason to believe your child’s safety is at risk.

  • Parents may have to temporarily adjust parenting time schedules, including giving up time with a child if the child or parent:
    • Must self-isolate
    • Is sick
    • Has been exposed to someone who is sick
  • Parenting arrangement adjustments could include using Skype or other communications tool to allow parenting time to occur
  • Adjustments may also include an agreement for additional future time with a child to make up for missed parenting time or contact
  • If an agreement requires exchanges to occur in a public place that is closed or with the assistance of a person that can no longer help because of COVID-19, transportation methods or exchange locations may need to be adjusted

Be reasonable and flexible in finding alternative temporary parenting arrangements. This is a stressful time, so it is important to keep conflict away from children and act in their best interest.

 

The financial circumstances of my family have changed due to COVID-19. What happens to child and spousal support?

Agreements and court orders about child and spousal support continue to apply.

  • The terms of an agreement or order are not automatically changed or paused because of the COVID-19 situation
  • If someone stops or reduces support payments, the amount owing will accrue as arrears until the agreement or the court order is changed

If the agreement or court order is enrolled with the province’s Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), contact the Enforcement Officer assigned to your file to discuss whether alternative payment options can be arranged.

  • If you are not able to pay your full amount of support, make whatever payment you can and contact FMEP to discuss your options

If you have an existing child or spousal support agreement or order and need to change it due to COVID-19, meeting with a Family Justice Counsellor or Child Support Officer is a good place to start. They are BC government employees who provide free services.

They can provide information about your options. They can also provide consensual dispute resolution (CDR). CDR can help you and the other party agree about updating support. If you can agree, it can be formalized in a written agreement or consent order. If you and the other party can’t agree, you can get help with applying to court to ask a judge to decide.

To set up a meeting with a family justice counsellor or a child support officer, please call 1-844-747-3963. You can also call Service BC toll free at 1-800-663-7867 between 7:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and ask the operator to transfer you to the Family Justice Centre or Justice Access Centre nearest you.

Making alternative arrangements

You can apply for a consent order or file a written agreement in either Provincial Court or Supreme Court.

Contact Family Justice Services Division at 1-844-747-3963 for help filing in Provincial Court or see Legal Aid BC’s Family Law in BC website for information about filing consent orders.

When communicating about parenting arrangements or support payments, you should follow any agreements or court orders that limit or describe how communication between the parents should take place.

Conduct orders and protection orders continue to be in effect.

If you need a protection order on an urgent basis you can apply to either:

  • The Provincial Court
  • The Supreme Court

For information about applying for a protection order see Keeping Your Family Safe. For support with urgent protection order applications, visit the Legal Aid BC website or phone the Legal Aid BC call centre at 604-408-2172 or 1-866-577-2525.

Neither parent can decide on their own to change the terms of an agreement or court order about parenting time or support.

Currently B.C. courts are able to address all matters, through a combination of remote and in person services. See the following websites for current information about how services are being delivered due to COVID-19: 

Obtaining a protection order

The Supreme Court and the Provincial Court can both hear applications for a protection order.

For information about applying for a protection order see Keeping Your Family Safe.

For support with urgent protection order applications, visit the Legal Aid BC website or phone the Legal Aid BC call centre at 604-408-2172 or 1-866-577-2525.

Other urgent matters

The Provincial Court of BC is now hearing proceedings virtually and in-person throughout the province.  

  • Parties are encouraged to use remote filing options (e.g. email, mail or fax to fax filing locations) wherever possible.  
  • Please read the notice from the Provincial Court of British Columbia and submit your application following the directions given in the order
  • If you need help, it is strongly encouraged to obtain legal advice

For updates on how the Supreme Court of BC is conducting hearings and other processes at this time, please see the Index of Supreme Court COVID-19 Notices [PDF, 291KB].

Also, see COVID-19 Notice 27: In Court Measures during the Pandemic, Supreme Court of British Columbia [PDF, 255KB].

Legal resources

Courts

Visit these websites for current information on how COVID-19 may be affecting services:

Legal advice

Legal Aid BC can help your family get legal advice about your particular situation and apply for a protection order. Please note that legal aid services are only offered by phone at this time.

Visit Legal Aid BC’s Coronavirus and the law: your questions answered page and click on Courts for current court processes and forms.

These guides provide useful information about applying for a protection order:

Access Pro Bono operates a Lawyer Referral Service that connects families with a lawyer who provides a free 30-minute legal consultation and can help with legal needs.

Victim services

For information about victim services available in B.C. communities and to find the victim service program nearest you, visit the VictimLinkBC website or call toll free at 1-800-563-0808.

For information about violence and abuse, including information about risk factors and safety planning, visit the Ending Violence Association of BC website.