Parenting Plans

Making arrangements for the children is a high priority when a relationship breaks down. We can provide advice and assist you to make a parenting plan that covers all relevant issues and is in the best interests of your children.

A parenting plan is an informal agreement between you and your former partner setting out parenting arrangements for children. It can cover a number of different issues, such as where the child lives, what time they spend with the other parent and how they communicate, the division of parental responsibility and decision-making, and financial arrangements. A parenting plan should be in writing and signed by both parents.

It is important to note that a parenting plan is not legally enforceable, although it is certainly a good first step following a separation or divorce. Having a parenting plan in place will allow you to see whether the arrangements you have agreed on are working well, and whether each parent is sticking to the plan. Where the lines of communication are open and amicable, you may find that a parenting plan is sufficient for your purposes. Should you wish to make the agreement binding and legally enforceable, you can apply to the court for consent orders. This can add a degree of protection just in case circumstances change down the track or a dispute arises.

If parents cannot reach an agreement about the care and support of their children, they can apply to the Family Court for parenting orders, meaning that the court will ultimately make the decision about parenting arrangements.

Decisions concerning children are important and the considerations involved can be complex. A Stacks family law specialist can explain all of your options and endeavour to help you to reach an agreement with your former spouse or partner without you having to set foot in a court.

Considering the best interests of your children

The Family Law Act places great emphasis on what is best for the child after the separation of their parents. The primary considerations of the court are that children should be protected from harm and that they should have a meaningful relationship with both parents to the greatest extent possible. Your parenting plan should be based on this principle.

This does not necessarily mean that there must be a 50/50 care split, but it does mean that parents and the court need to give consideration to the amount of time children spend with each parent. The idea is that the time children spend with each parent should be “substantial and significant”, and each parent should have an equal role in making major decisions concerning their children.

Need to speak to a family lawyer about making parenting plans? call us today

Commonly asked questions about parenting plans:

What kinds of things should be included in a parenting plan?

Your plan should encompass the following matters.

  • Who the child lives with

  • Who the child spends time with and how they communicate with the other parent

  • What happens on important days such as Christmas, Easter, school holidays, the children’s birthdays, father’s day, mother’s day, the mother’s birthday and the father’s birthday

  • What time the child will spend with other people such as grandparents, siblings, step parents, or any other people who are important in your child’s life

  • The decision-making process for important decisions concerning the child (eg schooling, health)

  • Financial arrangements for the children

  • The process for resolving any disputes about the arrangements in your plan

Do we need a lawyer to make a parenting plan?

No. You can make or change a parenting plan at any time without the need for a lawyer. Seeking legal advice may be beneficial to ensure that you have covered all of the necessary considerations in your plan, and that the best interests of your children have been prioritised.

What is my ex-partner fails to stick to the plan we agreed on?

In the case of a dispute you can apply to the court for parenting orders. The informal parenting plan you made with your ex-partner will be taken into consideration by the court (as long as it is in writing, has been signed by both parents and was made without threats or intimidation). The parenting orders made by the court are binding and legally enforceable, giving you legal recourse should your ex-partner fail to abide by the orders in the future.

Will we have to attend court if we want to turn our parenting plan into consent orders?

No. This is largely an administrative process by the court and you will not have to be present. As long as the court does not have any concerns about your agreement, it will seal your consent orders and each parent will receive a copy. Should either party breach the consent orders in the future, the other party will have legal recourse.