Parenting Agreements

June 29, 2018

You don't have to be together to be great parents.

If you and your ex-partner are open to discussing custody and parenting time of your child, you may be able to obtain a Parenting Agreement. A Parenting Agreement is an official document filed with the Family Court, in which you and your ex-partner can agree to co-parenting terms. What is "co-parenting"? Simply put, it's when both parents share the duties of parenting.

A Parenting Agreement can be drafted to meet the unique needs of you and your ex-partner. The core of a Parenting Agreement will cover the following areas:

  1. How much time each parent spends with the child;
  2. When each parent will spend time with the child; and
  3. How decisions are made about the child.

The schedule for how much time each parent will spend with the child should be as detailed as possible to avoid conflict. That's the main purpose of a Parenting Agreement: establish boundaries to avoid conflict.

But life happens, and any good Parenting Agreement should also contain a clause about flexibility to ensure you are meeting your child’s needs as they evolve.

Other items that typically make their way into a Parenting Agreement are:

  1. How much child support will be paid by either parent? (support is based on income parent income and varies based on the situation of the child)
  2. How will special events be handled on the schedule?
  3. How will the child spend birthdays, holidays, and summer vacation?
  4. How will the child's involvement in extra-curricular activities be handled? (Who is handling that 6AM hockey practice?)
  5. How is childcare handled? Do both parents need to consent to who is caring for their child?
  6. How are the child's possessions handled?
  7. Are there any rules or parenting practices that should be followed in both households? (for example, some parents choose to limit screen time or follow a particular routine)

The bottom line is that a Parenting Agreement is a custom solution to a difficult problem: helping you co-parent with your ex-partner in a way that ensures your child feels secure and loved.

The needs of your child will change over time, and sometimes in ways the original Parenting Agreement didn't cover. That's why Parenting Agreements should be reviewed and renewed. Some Parenting Agreements even contain "sunset clauses" that specifically deal with this issue by requiring  the agreement be reviewed and renewed after a certain period of time. A sunset clause allows parents to return to the negotiating table and either keep going with the same terms or adjust the agreement to suit changing circumstances.

That's all great, but how much does it cost?

A Parenting Agreement is an official court document that is registered with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) for a small fee of $43.60.

Many parents choose to engage the services of a lawyer to draft and finalize a Parenting Agreement to make sure the document covers all the bases and is prepared properly. The cost of preparing a Parenting Agreement varies based on the complexity of the Parenting Agreement and how the negotiations progress; however, the cost is far less than a contested court hearing which could cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Parenting Agreements aren't for everyone and there are times when it's best to take a child custody matter to court in order to resolve a dispute. Even when parents do come to an agreement they still need to continue to communicate and be civil with each other in order to adhere to the terms and avoid court proceedings.

For many parents, a Parenting Agreement is a good method of avoiding conflict down the road and the first step in ensuring a positive co-parenting experience.

This post was written by one of our lawyers, Danielle MacSween.
If you'd like to contact Danielle, you can reach her at

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Anna Manley

Anna Manley
Anna is the principal lawyer of Manley Law Inc. and is a regular contributor to the Manley Law Blog. She practices in the areas of Real Estate, Privacy/Internet, Corporate, and Wills & Estates

Danielle MacSween

Danielle MacSween
Danielle is an associate lawyer at Manley Law Inc. and is a regular contributor to the Manley Law Blog. She practices in the areas of Family, Immigration, and Labour & Employment

Tj McKeough

Tj McKeough
Tj is an associate lawyer at Manley Law Inc. and is a regular contributor to the Manley Law Blog. He practices in the areas of Litigation, Personal Injury, and Criminal