Parenting Plans – what you need to know

Sep 9, 2019

How are Parenting Plans made without going to court?

Parenting Agreements and Parenting Plans state how children will spend time with each of their separated or divorced parents and will ideally be set out in writing so that each parent is clear on what those arrangements are.

Parenting agreements can be decided between the parents, with or without the assistance of a mediator.  If the document setting out the parenting agreement complies with certain requirements, it will be recognised as a Parenting Plan under Family Law.   The requirements for a parenting agreement to be recognised as a Parenting Plan are:

  • The parenting agreement must be set out in writing.
  • The parenting agreement must be signed and dated by each parent.
  • Each parent must have signed the parenting agreement free from any threat, duress or coercion.

If these 3 conditions are met then you have a Parenting Plan.

This avoids the cost of applying to the court to have parenting orders made but is only suitable where both parents are committed to finding an agreeable arrangement between then and to sticking to that arrangement.

If you would like details of mediators who can assist you in preparing your Parenting Plan, please contact us.

Advantages of having a Parenting Agreement or Parenting Plan

Having your parenting arrangements set out in a written document gives you the following advantages:

  • Each parent has a document to refer to if they are unable to remember the exact arrangements for certain occasions, for example, the short or long school holiday arrangements, or what was agreed about special days such as the child’s birthday.
  • If the parenting arrangements are worded clearly and unambiguously, it reduces the likelihood for conflict between the parents which is important for both parents and children.
  • The written agreement or plan can also include agreement about matters such as child support arrangements, parental responsibility and any aspect of the children’s care, welfare of development which the parents wish to have agreed in writing between them.  
    New article coming soon: “What does parental responsibility mean?”

Unlike parenting agreements, Parenting Plans can also be used to vary existing Parenting Orders made by a court if both parties are agreeable to that variation.  What is set out in a Parenting Plan, which was agreed after parenting orders were made by the court, will take precedence over anything in the court orders about the same issue. 

If you would like some assistance with the wording of your Parenting Agreement or Parenting Plan to ensure you have covered all the important issues and the wording used is not open to more than one interpretation, Northside Lawyers can assist you with that.  Call us for an estimate of the cost to you for one of our lawyers to review your draft document and provide you with some advice before either of you sign it. 

What a Parenting Plan won’t give you

A Parenting Plan is not a legally binding document and is therefore not enforceable by a court.  If one of the parents continually fails to comply with the plan, the other parent cannot seek the assistance of the court in getting the other parent to comply with those agreed arrangements. If one parent is regularly failing to comply the parenting arrangements set out in the Parenting Plan, the only option is to then seek court orders for your parenting arrangements.  If the court orders for parenting arrangements are not complied with then it may be possible to apply to the court to have the orders enforced or the other parent penalised or punished in some way for breaching the orders.

New article coming soon: Breaches of parenting orders – What can you do about it?”

CAUTION: This article contains general information of public interest only and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon as, legal advice specific to the reader’s personal circumstances. Should you have a legal matter, please seek professional advice before acting or relying on this content.