Answers to your legal questions about coronavirus COVID-19 in Alberta and Canada

Many people have been asking me for advice on legal issues arising from coronavirus COVID-19 and the drastic measures being taken to contain the virus. The following information is necessarily general; it does not constitute legal advice. To discuss your specific concerns, please contact me for an appointment.

How does COVID-19 affect my civil lawsuit or my criminal charges?

There is an entire page on the changes that the courts of Alberta and Canada have made in response to COVID-19. For the time being, the courts are generally hearing only urgent matters. Most hearings and other appointments in court have been cancelled or postponed. Please see the link for details.

How does COVID-19 affect Canadian immigration, refuge (asylum), and travel?

There is an entire page on the implications of COVID-19 for Canadian immigration, refuge, and travel.

How does COVID-19 affect child support, spousal support, access, custody, vacations, holidays, and travel with children?

Although I do not generally practise family law, I have received questions about these issues. The public measures taken in response to COVID-19, including quarantine and self-isolation, disrupt many arrangements respecting children. People have expressed concern about the cancellation of vacations or other time that they had planned to spend with their children and about the payment of child support and spousal support in light of changes to employment. These concerns are very real. Unfortunately, the courts are currently limiting their activities largely to urgent matters. In family law, just about the only matters considered urgent right now are those involving a risk of harm or violence or of the removal of a child from Alberta. Other matters, however important they may seem to those affected, are likely to have to wait until May 2020 or beyond.

Parties involved in a conflict over issues such as those listed above should try to negotiate reasonable temporary arrangements if they can. Although the courts are not hearing routine family-related applications right now, they will not smile upon attempts to take unfair advantage of the disruptions arising from COVID-19, especially if dependent children suffer from the consequences of a parent’s unreasonable, irresponsible conduct. Indeed, this unusual situation offers an excellent opportunity to practise being reasonable, if the parties can possibly do so.

If your matter is urgent because it involves a real risk of harm, violence, or the removal of a child from Alberta, please contact a lawyer (including me) right away.

COVID-19 is interfering with the performance of my contract. What can I do?

Some contracts remain valid and enforceable despite an unusual occurrence such as the outbreak of COVID-19. Some, however, may be affected by doctrines such as frustration of purpose, impossibility, and impracticability that alter the parties’ obligations. A contract may also include a clause on force majeure («act of God») that may have similar effects. Please have a lawyer review your contract and advise you.

How does COVID-19 affect estate planning?

If you reside in Alberta and are at least 18 years old, you should have a will. I also strongly recommend an enduring power of attorney and a personal directive, which are useful for planning your affairs in the event that you become unable to attend to them yourself. Also consider keeping your papers in reasonable order and writing up your wishes for final arrangements, including such issues as organ donation, disposal of your body (burial and cremation being the two most common options), and your preferences for any funeral or memorial services.

If you do not have a will, consider the outbreak of COVID-19 a shot across the bow. You may wish to consult a lawyer for assistance with estate planning. It is usually best and cheapest to have the will, the enduring power of attorney, and the personal directive prepared all at once.

How can I see a notary public or a commissioner for oaths in light of COVID-19?

Notarial services in Alberta still must be obtained in person. I have made special arrangements to provide these services.

Affidavits to be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench may now be commissioned via videoconference, using special procedures. You may wish to see whether you can defer the production of an affidavit, such as by arrangement with the opposing parties in your lawsuit.

How can I get legal help during the outbreak of COVID-19?

My offices remain open. Please contact me if you need an appointment for a consultation on your legal matter.

Notary public in Edmonton, Alberta

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