Following separation there are a number of ways that parents can formalise their parenting arrangements. Two of the most common options are parenting plans and consent orders. When deciding which option to chose it is important to understand the differences between them and how they may suit your circumstances.
A Parenting plan is a written document which is signed and dated, setting out matters relating to the care, welfare, and development of the child. A parenting plan will typically include the following:-
- Who the child lives with,
- Who the child spends time with and communicates with,
- The day to day care of the child,
- How the parents are to communicate and make decisions about the child,
- What should happen in the event of a dispute between the parents regarding the plan; and
- When the plan should be reviewed.
Parenting plans can be varied at any time by further written agreement between the parties. This gives parties more control over their parenting arrangements and the flexibility to change the plan as the child’s circumstances change. This can be especially beneficial if your child is young as you can change the parenting plan as your child develops.
A Parenting Plan is not legally enforceable but can be used as evidence in court should the co-parenting relationship breakdown.
Consent Orders are a written agreement that can be obtained through application to the Court. Consent Orders can cover parenting arrangements as well as property settlements. The Court will only make the Order as it relates to parenting, if they consider it to be in the best interests for the child.
A benefit of Consent Orders is that once they are made, they are legally binding and if a party does not comply with the Orders, the other party can make an application to the Court for a Contravention of the Orders.
Orders do not offer the same flexibility as a parenting plan. If your parenting arrangements under an Order cease to be functional you must either apply to the Court to have the Orders varied or replaced by subsequent Consent Orders, or alternatively, you can agree on a subsequent parenting plan.
What should I do – Parenting Plan or Consent Orders?
Whether a parenting plan or Consent Order is more suitable will be dependent on your own circumstances, how effectively the parties are able to communicate and whether there are foreseeable future issues which may affect the arrangement.
If you are concerned about whether the other party will stick to the agreement, then having an Order in place is the preferred option.
If the parties are able to communicate well about their parenting arrangements and would like the flexibility of being able to change their arrangements as the needs of their child/ren develop then a parenting plan would be the best option.
If you need assistance deciding the best option to suit your needs or have questions regarding parenting arrangements, please contact our office to arrange a time to meet with one of our experienced solicitors.