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The legal team at Scarfone Hawkins answers your questions related to COVID

Q: With the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, how do I maintain shared custody and parenting of my kids?

Managing shared custody and parenting arrangements can be challenging even without a global pandemic adding disruption, confusion and uncertainty to the mix. Children are creatures of habit, and structured schedules and routines are gospel in managing the day-to-day tasks and events.

It is important to remember that a child’s well-being is the most important consideration by the courts. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can ensure bliss between households.

  1. Maintain the parenting schedules as much as possible. All regular parenting time and custody schedules should be kept, unless someone is self-isolating or quarantining. If you think the other parent is not taking necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an urgent motion can be filed.
  2. Do not take advantage of this pandemic to prevent your child from having contact with the other parent. The courts have made it clear that breaches of custody/timesharing orders will have consequences.
  3. Maintain structure and routines. Stick to regular family schedules and routines – make time for school work, family time, and hobbies. Keep regular bedtimes and meal times.
  4. Most importantly, keep conflict away from children. Stay child-focused and work together as a united team to help your child feel safe and reduce their stress and anxiety.

If you focus on what is best for your child and follow these tips, you should be golden. If a problem arises, know that help is just a phone call away.

Konstantine Ketsetzis is an associate lawyer at Scarfone Hawkins LLP practising in the areas of family law, residential and commercial real estate, and commercial litigation.

Q: My parents are currently living in a long-term care home and I don’t get to see them as often due to COVID-19. I am concerned these circumstances are negatively affecting their health and I want to make sure I can keep helping them as they get older, but I don’t know where to start?

COVID-19 has been responsible for putting many aspects of our lives on hold; however, it has not stopped any of us from getting older.

While we all continue to check-in on our parents, grandparents, siblings and friends, either in our “bubble” or remotely, for many people it is becoming increasingly difficult to visit those currently living in long-term care facilities. This change is difficult for all of us, but especially the elderly.

With a second wave of COVID-19 looming on the horizon, we may be faced with another extended period of limited face-to-face interactions. In order to avoid future disputes or delays in assisting your loved ones with their ongoing care, managing assets or administering estates, make sure all powers of attorney and estate planning are up to date. If there are concerns with respect to capacity, consider retaining a qualified capacity assessor to assist in ensuring that your loved ones have the requisite capacity to execute wills, codicils, powers of attorney and other documents. They can also assist you and your legal team if you are required to initiate an application to be appointed guardian for either personal care or property. This is one of many possible steps that can help avoid protracted and expensive litigation down the line.

When you make sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, you provide your family, your loved ones and yourself with peace of mind. Consider obtaining legal advice if you do require assistance.

Victoria McDougall is an associate lawyer at Scarfone Hawkins LLP practicing in the areas of family law, estates and commercial litigation.

Question: As an employer, what options do I have to reduce my payroll obligations if my business has been negatively impacted by COVID-19?

The fight to keep businesses up and running is evolving as quickly as the spread of COVID-19.

Ontario employers facing economic hardship or mandatory closure have a number of different options to reduce their overall payroll liability, with a view to cost savings during the pandemic, which include:

1.            Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Employers that have seen a drop in revenue due to COVID-19, can apply for and may be eligible to receive a subsidy to cover part of its employee wages, retroactive to March 15, 2020.

2.            Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (‘IDEL’). The Ontario Government recently extended the IDEL regulation to January 2, 2021, which deems non-unionized employees who have been placed on a temporary layoff due to COVID-19 to be on a job-protected leave of absence. Under the regulation, employees whose hours are temporarily reduced or eliminated by the employer for reasons related to COVID-19 are automatically deemed to be on ‘IDEL’, and the reduction or elimination of hours/wages will not constitute a layoff or a constructive dismissal under the Employment Standards Act.

3.            Terminations. An employer may still exercise its right to terminate an employee with or without cause. However, employers should be advised that under the Human Rights Code ‘coronavirus illness’ likely constitutes a “disability”, and the Code prohibits termination on such basis. Employers are reminded of their obligation to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.

While the issues commonly faced by employers during this pandemic may be similar, the intricacies of each particular employer/employee relationship require that caution be taken in implementing any change within the workplace. Legal advice should be obtained prior to proceeding with the foregoing measures.

Holly Elich is an associate lawyer at Scarfone Hawkins LLP practicing in corporate commercial and employment law.

Q: I want to renovate my home, but COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. What should I consider before picking a contractor and starting demolition?

Good news! Residential construction and renovation projects can proceed, as they are still considered an “essential services” by the Ontario government.

Make sure you retain a well-known, reputable contractor that follows all relevant laws and regulations.

A clear contract is a necessity. The contract should lay out everyone’s expectations and obligations, especially those related to payment and timing.

The contract should spell out a procedure for making changes to the construction plan. Follow this procedure.

Document everything in writing to keep track of progress during what is sure to be a hectic and stressful process.

Be reasonable. Contractors are neither mind-readers nor miracle workers. Good work takes time; understanding this will help manage expectations.

Protecting your interests by entering into a contract before construction begins will help ensure your dream renovation does not turn into a nightmare of disputes with your contractor or, worse, litigation. Court fights over construction issues can take years, even decades, to resolve.

Michael Grant is an associate at Scarfone Hawkins LLP practising in all areas of civil and commercial litigation.

Q: Jury duty during a pandemic? Are jury trials still taking place?

A: Yes, some jury trials are proceeding in Ontario, but it is not business as usual. While the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right to a jury trial for serious criminal offences, that protection does not apply to civil cases.

The right to a civil jury trial for claims arising from motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and other serious personal injury cases has been recognized as a fundamental, but not absolute, legal right in Ontario. In some cases, that right has been outweighed by the need for a swift trial, something that is not always possible, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the best of times, trial by jury can lead to increased expense, delay, and uncertainty. During a pandemic, those risks are multiplied – will the trial be delayed for too long? can jurors be kept safe? what happens to the trial if a juror tests positive? Those concerns have led to a number of recent decisions, including one from Hamilton, in which the court has overruled a party’s request for a jury trial and ordered trial by a judge alone.

Time will tell if the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting effects on the use of civil juries in Ontario. Jury or not, people with serious personal injuries are best-served by expert legal representation.

Jacob Sazio is an associate at Scarfone Hawkins LLP practicing in personal injury and medical malpractice litigation

To get more information or to contact a member of the Scarfone Hawkins legal team click here.

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