Parenting Agreements

Benefits of an Agreement

When parents make an agreement about parenting, they decide what is best for their children. If they cannot agree they can ask the court for a parenting order. If there is a court case, the court, not the parents, decides what is best for the children. 

Before the courts will make a decision about parenting, parents must try to resolve their issues. Parents will need to use one of the family dispute resolution processes outlined below.

There may be other benefits to deciding on parenting arrangements by agreement. It can cost less money and take less time than going to court. Parents who decide on the arrangements may more likely to follow the plan. Parents can also improve their ability to communicate with each other through the process of reaching an agreement. It is hard for children when their parents argue about looking after them. If parents can agree their children will benefit. 

Reaching an Agreement

Sometimes parents can work things out themselves. The good thing about agreements is that they can contain whatever terms the parents want. Each parent may have a draft of what they want. The parents can share their drafts with each other. After discussing the drafts one or both parents can write up what they have agreed on. This draft can be used as a basis for further negotiation. 

Sometimes parents need help from a third-party to reach an agreement. There are different ways to get this help. 

Family Mediation

Mediation is not couples counselling or therapy. A mediator cannot make an order or force parents to agree. A mediator may help parents find solutions they had not considered before. Parents discuss the issues and make joint decisions about how to settle them. The mediator can then help them put the decisions down on paper.

Parents generally meet with the mediator several times. The first meeting is often used to determine if mediation is a good option for the parents. At the first meeting the mediator will explain how mediation will work and the rules for future meetings. Sometimes the mediation process can include other people such as a new partner or extended family members.

Collaborative Law Services

When collaborative law services are used each parent has their own lawyer. Both lawyers and the parents work together to come to an agreement. 

Parents and the collaborative professionals all sign an agreement that outlines how they will work together. Everyone agrees that the lawyers will not represent either parent in court if the matter later goes to court. Both parents and the collaborative professionals meet together to try and negotiate an agreement. Parents each receive advice from their own lawyer during the meetings and negotiations. If an agreement is reached the lawyers will create a written agreement for the parents to sign. 

Family Arbitration

Unlike other professionals who can help parents reach an agreement, an arbitrator makes decisions for the parents. For this process to be used both parents must agree in writing to give the arbitrator the authority to make decisions. Both sides must be given a chance to present their case and to respond to the other parent’s case. Parents must be treated equally and fairly. The arbitrator cannot favour one parent over the other. Once the arbitrator has heard all the evidence they make a decision, called an award. When the arbitrator is making a decision about parenting arrangements the arbitrator must consider the best interests of the child.

Parenting Coordination 

Sometimes even after there is a parenting agreement or parenting order, parents can continue to have disputes. In these cases parents can agree to use a parenting coordinator. A court can also order that parents use a parenting coordinator. 

 A parenting coordinator works with the parents and can make decisions about the child’s… 

A parenting coordinator cannot make a decision about: • 

In making any decisions the parenting coordinator must only consider the best interests of the child. The court can overrule the decision of parenting coordinator. 

What should be in an Agreement? 

Parents need to decide for themselves what they want and need to include in their parenting agreement. The list that follows includes some of the more common issues that parents may want to address. Some parenting plans will need to address issues not listed here while others may not include all of the issues listed here. Every family situation is unique.

The Agreement Maker that is part of Family Law Saskatchewan or the online Parenting Plan Tool developed by the Department of Justice Canada can both be used to create a parenting agreement. Both of these tools guide people through the process by including details about all the key aspects of a parenting agreement and give people numerous options within each area to tailor-make an agreement that works for them.

When an Agreement is not followed 

Sometimes one or both parents do not follow the terms of an agreement. One parent might interfere with the other parent’s time. They might not have the child ready for pick-ups. They might schedule activities for the child during the other parent’s time. Sometimes one parent does not spend time with the child when they are supposed to. They might miss visits or be late for visits. In more extreme cases one parent may prevent the other parent from seeing the child at all or may even abduct the child.

There are a number of possible options when this is happening. Parents can start by talking the situation over and finding out why the problems are occurring. Parents can get help from a counsellor or a mediator.

If no solution can be reached a parenting agreement can be enforced by the court. The court can only enforce a parenting agreement if it is in writing. Depending on what is happening there are a number of orders the court can make. The court can…

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