On May 26, 2017, Nova Scotia’s new Parenting and Support Act (the “Act“) came into effect, replacing the former Maintenance and Enforcement Act. In addition to the new name, the Act brings sweeping changes to family law in Nova Scotia. Some of the most notable changes include: a list of consequences for failing to comply with an order or agreement, new guidelines for courts dealing with cases where one parent wants to relocate with their child, the use of a parenting plan, new rules regarding the calculation of maintenance, and modernized language.
Failure to Comply with Parenting Arrangements
The Act features a new list of actions that may be taken when a parent fails to comply with orders or agreements for parenting or contact time, or interaction with the child. Under the Act wrongful denial of time and failure to exercise time will have the same outcomes. These outcomes include:
|Denial, but not wrongful denial, of parenting time, contact time or interaction.
|A court may order compensatory parenting time, contact time or interaction with the child.
|Wrongful denial of parenting time, contact time, or interaction; OR
Failure to exercise parenting time, contact time, or interaction.
|A court may order that:
any of the parties or the child attend counselling and that one party pay for the counselling;
the applicant have or exercise compensatory parenting time, contact time, or interaction;
the respondent reimburse the applicant for expenses incurred as a result of the respondent’s denial of / failure to exercise the parenting time, contact time or interaction;
the transfer of the child for parenting time or contact time be supervised, and that one party pay for the costs associated with the supervision;
the parenting time, contact time or interaction be supervised, and that one party pay for the costs associated with the supervision;
the costs of the application be paid by one or more of the parties;
the parties appear for the making of an additional order; and
the respondent pay up to $5,000 to the applicant or to the applicant in trust for the child.
Further, the Act includes specific guidelines requiring that parents who wish to move outside Nova Scotia with their child give advance notice and establish, depending on their parenting arrangement, whether or not the relocation will benefit the child. The Act creates the following presumptions to guide the courts in determining whether a relocation is in the best interests of the child:
|A primary caregiver requests an order for relocation, any person opposing the relocation is not “substantially involved” in the care of the child.
|The relocation of the child is in the best interests of the child unless the person opposing the relocation can show that the relocation would not be in the best interests of the child.
|The person requesting the relocation order and any person opposing the relocation have a “substantially shared” parenting arrangement.
|The relocation of the child is not in the best interests of the child, unless the person seeking to relocate can show that the relocation would be in the best interests of the child.
|All other situations.
|All parties to the application have the burden of showing what is in the best interests of the child.
The Act also provides guidance for creating a parenting plan, a written agreement regarding custody and parenting arrangements for a child. The use of parenting plans is intended to help parents clarify their respective responsibilities and the child’s living arrangement. Parenting plans can outline arrangements including who the child will live and associate with, plans for medical care, education, extracurricular activities, religion, spirituality, travel, sharing of information, communication and dispute resolution.
Calculation of Maintenance
Additionally, factors such as a spouse’s conduct which prolongs the needs or period of time for which maintenance is required, a spouse persistently engaging in conduct that constitutes a repudiation of the marriage, remarriage, and cohabitation with a different person, will no longer be considered as factors reducing or eliminating spousal support.
Finally, there are numerous semantic changes in the Act, including updates to the language and terminology used to describe custody and parenting arrangements. The new language is intended to modernize Nova Scotia’s approach to family law, reflecting pivotal societal changes concerning family situations. For example, words such as “access” and “visiting privileges” have been replaced by the terms “parenting time”, “contact time” and “interaction”.
Sampson McPhee has prepared this publication to provide legal information of a general nature. It is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions or concerns one of our lawyers will be happy to assist you. You can reach us by calling 902 539 2425.