Trying to agree on care arrangements for your children after separation can feel overwhelming, especially when trying to decide who has the children for school holidays, Christmas Holidays, Easter Holidays, Birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

In the fortunate event you still have an amicable co-parenting relationship with your former partner, we still recommend you have your parenting arrangements recorded in written agreement. You have two options: a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order. But what’s the difference?

Consent Orders

A Consent Order details the co-parenting arrangement you and your former partner have agreed to. As these Orders are filed with the Court, they are detailed documents.  Ensuring the Orders are drafted properly will assist the Court determining if the Orders made are in the best interests of the children. Additionally, it will assisting in minimising the possibility of either party misinterpreting the Orders. This second point is extremely important as once the Orders are approved by the Court, they become binding.

This means that in the event one parent does not follow the Orders, the other parent can request the Court to enforce the Orders and penalties against the breaching parent can be imposed.

It is important to note that these Orders are made on a final basis, and the Court requires significant changes to the care arrangements or allegations of risk before considering any amendments being made.

Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan, on the other hand, involves drafting a document that both parents can use to rely on (instead of simply relying on a verbal agreement). Parenting Plans are not filed with the Court.  As such, they will be evidence of the agreement reached and in place, but are not binding or enforceable.  Parenting Plans do however, have the benefit of being flexible and updated far more easily than an Order.

Which one is most appropriate?

Some things to consider when determining the best option for your co-parenting agreement include:

  • Whether you would like to have orders which you can enforce. For example, this may be necessary in high conflict matters or where problems in adhering to agreements have occurred in the past.
  • Whether you are ready to document a final agreement or whether you need an interim agreement. For example, if your child is an infant, you may not be able to determine the appropriate arrangements to put in place until they finish high school.  You may want something more flexible which can be updated until those decisions can be made.
  • Whether Court proceedings are in place. If you have Court proceedings in place, Orders will be required.

How do I initiate parenting arrangements?

It is vital to get advice at the beginning of your separation process so that you can make an informed decision about which arrangement might be best for you and your children in your circumstances. If you wish to discuss the above further, please get in touch with our friendly family law team who will be happy to assist you and make the process as simple and quick as possible for both yourself, and your children. Call us on (07) 3211 2233 or fill in the enquiry form below and we’ll be in touch.

by Lucy Agnew & Georgia Dalton