Parents call for custodial visits to be easier for out-of-province arrangements

·4 min read
Check points near the Confederation Bridge monitor who is coming into P.E.I. Stephanie Cudmore said she was worried she might not even get into P.E.I.  (CBC - image credit)
Check points near the Confederation Bridge monitor who is coming into P.E.I. Stephanie Cudmore said she was worried she might not even get into P.E.I. (CBC - image credit)

Stephanie Cudmore of Halifax and Tim Sock of Scotchfort, P.E.I. share two daughters and say trying to ensure both parents get to see them has led to stress, unnecessary delays and confusion during the pandemic.

They want people who work at the border checkpoints to be better informed of the rules surrounding custodial visits.

Cudmore recently travelled to P.E.I. to see the girls and says she was originally told she didn't need pre-approval documents since she still had a P.E.I. health card. When she got to the P.E.I checkpoint she was told she required the pre-approval.

She said the delays took away important time she hoped to spend with her kids.

"There was so many people I had to talk to and it was just very stressful," said Cudmore.

Cudmore says she found the process of coming to P.E.I. for a custodial visit 'very stressful.'
Cudmore says she found the process of coming to P.E.I. for a custodial visit 'very stressful.'(Laura Meader/CBC)

She said it was also hard to relax once the visit did happen, since she spent a lot of time making phone calls and worrying.

"There's no communication within departments, it has to be easier," she said.

Isolation hard on kids

Cudmore had made calls ahead of her visit to P.E.I. and thought she had the rules figured out and a good plan.

She says she isolated for five days at home before she came to P.E.I and received a negative COVID-19 test when she arrived in P.E.I.

She had planned to stay at a hotel with her two daughters, but said that scenario ended up being too hard since she was told they would have to isolate and wouldn't be allowed to leave the hotel room.

She had hoped to take their dogs out for walks or go to a drive-thru restaurant for food.

Cudmore and her girls ended up spending the rest of the visit at Sock's house, although they were still told to not leave the property.

Cudmore hopes provincial departments will communicate better about travel related to custodial visits.
Cudmore hopes provincial departments will communicate better about travel related to custodial visits. (CBC )

According to the P.E.I. government website, there are some freedoms for parents who travel from out of province for custodial visits.

The site says once there's a negative test result, the visiting parent and children may go off their property for outdoor exercise, visit outdoor public spaces or go for a drive with members of the household.

"Someone said I have to get a COVID test to get out of P.E.I., someone said no you don't have to bother, because I already had a negative test, I still don't know at this point, who's right, who's wrong," said Cudmore.

Confusion over self-isolation rules

Cudmore said there were also complications when Sock dropped their kids off in Nova Scotia last fall.

Upon return to P.E.I., he was told he had to isolate — when in fact the rules for custody exchanges mean parents are exempt from self-isolation, as long as they return the same day, only go to the designated exchange location and make no other stops.

"These people that are going back and forth to see their kids, they're cherishing the time they have with their kids," Cudmore said.

"It shouldn't be spent on stressing over who has the right answer."

'Being unable to see your child is hurtful'

Sock said it has been hard on everyone.

"Being unable to see your child is hurtful," he said.

"I don't wish to see my kids cry missing their mother, and I don't wish her crying missing her daughters over stupid paperwork."

Tim Sock said delays during visits are tough on everyone.
Tim Sock said delays during visits are tough on everyone.(Laura Meader/CBC)

He said he's heard from other families who have also faced challenges travelling for visits during COVID restrictions.

Both parents said they are very careful to follow public health guidelines. such as wearing masks, washing hands and physically distancing.

CBC reached out for comment from the province, and received an email directing parents to the rules, as outlined on its website.

"It is always disheartening to hear that a parent experienced confusion or stress related to a visit. There are dedicated members of the CPHO team who support families with custody-related concerns or questions to provide consistent and accurate responses," it said in a statement.

"We encourage all individuals to check the website frequently for updates and guidance. If individuals have specific questions or unique situations, we suggest they reach out [to] CPHO directly so we can assist them with their plans. Any concerns are resolved with CPHO supporting families in a timely manner."

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