If both parents agree on the future arrangements for your child or children, you can have this agreement formalised by either drafting a parenting plan or obtaining consent orders.

Both have advantages and disadvantages so legal advice should be obtained when deciding what option is best for you. For example, a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement. In contrast, an application for consent orders are made to the court and the orders ultimately made by the court (known as parenting orders) are legally binding.

Parenting Orders cannot be changed easily and without following the proper process. As these orders are legally binding, you can apply for the court if the other party breaches those orders.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement that clearly sets out the parenting arrangements for the child or children. The more detailed and specific these arrangements are, the easier it will be for both parents to know what their obligations are and following those arrangements. These arrangements can be changed at any time by agreement by both parents.

Why do we need a parenting plan?

A parenting plan clearing outlines the parenting arrangements for the child or children. A parenting plan sets out each parents role and rights for example:

  • who the children or children will be living with;
  • when the other parent can spend time with their child or children; and
  • and what has been agreed to in relation to the children’s health and wellbeing (sports activities, education, medical decisions etc) and MORE.

As these activities and decisions usually come naturally within a household, most parents do not realise how many factors have to be considered and discussed when drawing up a parenting plan.

A parenting plan can also include time spent by the child or children with other family members such as grandparents or cousins. It can be as detailed or simple depending on your agreement.

How can I make a parenting plan?

The first step is to sit down with your former partner and discuss what each parent thinks is appropriate for future arrangements and keeping in mind what is in the best interests of the child or children. It may be easier to group the particulars to be considered into different areas such as:

  • Living arrangements
  • Education
  • Health care and medical decisions
  • Which parent will be responsible for certain expenses
  • Religion

A parenting plan does not involve a division of assets and this will need to be dealt with separately.

What happens if we cannot agree on a parenting plan?

If both parents cannot agree on the future parenting arrangements then an application will need to be made to the Court seeking parenting orders.

When should I make a parenting plan?

You should make a parenting plan as soon as possible to ensure consistency and minimal disruption to your child or children’s life.

What should go into a parenting plan?

A parenting plan should be as detailed as possible and include particulars relating to:

  • Living arrangements
  • Education
  • Health care and medical decisions
  • Which parent will be responsible for certain expenses
  • Religion
  • Communication

When considering the above, you should always keep in mind the reality of the situation and what is best for the child or children.

Who can help you make a parenting plan?

If you need help in preparing a parenting plain, there are community-based family support services that can assist you by providing materials to assist you or by holding a mediation with your former partner. For example:

Relationships Australia:

https://www.relationships.org.au/

Family Relationships Online:

https://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/find-local-help?field_geofield_distance%5Borigin%5D=GLEN+WAVERLEY+VIC+3150&field_category_tid=All

Alternatively, you can always seek legal help if you require urgent and flexible assistance.

Should I get a lawyer to help with a parenting plan?

There is no particular form or format that needs to be followed when drafting a parenting plan, but the plan needs to be in writing and signed by both parties.

The most important thing is ensuring that all the important issues are not only addressed – but addressed in proper detail. This will ensure that the plan will be adhered to by both parents and that there will be minimal disruption to your child or children’s life. The main objective of a parenting plan is to make the separation easier on all parties and most people understand how much thought and detail needs to go into a parenting plan.

Is a parenting plan enforceable?

Parenting plans are not legally enforceable. If you need the parenting plan to be legally enforceable you can make an application to the court for consent orders (which are orders agreed to by both parents).

It is important to note that a parenting plan which is made after consent orders are made by the Court can supersede the consent orders. If you need to change your current parenting orders (either by consent or by court proceedings) please seek legal advice as the circumstances of your situation will need to be properly considered.

If a dispute arises between the parents, a parenting plan can be taken into consideration by the Court if proceedings are issued so long as the parenting plan is:

  • in writing;
  • made between the parents of a child
  • signed and dated by both parents;
  • willingly entered into by both parents; and
  • contains the parenting arrangements agreed to.

How we can Help…

Legal matters involving children often have a great deal of emotion involved with subjective opinions, especially in disputes, and the Court will always look to the best interests of the child in deciding these matters.

Our philosophy in parenting matters revolves around two key words: insight and practicality. We are experienced family lawyers and understand the process thoroughly and will advise you through the lens of our experience in court and the law.

Speak to a family lawyer today on 1300 907 335 or complete the contact form on this page and we will happily respond to you promptly.

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