What is a Parenting Plan?
- A Parenting Plan is an agreement reached between parents outlining the care arrangements for their children.
- Parenting Plans are not made in court and are not court orders.
- Parenting Plans allow for flexibility as they do not require a court order to vary or set them aside.
- If one parent unilaterally decides not to comply with the terms of the Parenting Plan then there is no recourse for the other parent to enforce the agreement.
- If the matter comes before the court, the court is obliged to consider the most recent Parenting Plan, if this is in the best interest of the child, but will not enforce a parenting plan otherwise.
- Whether a Parenting Plan is suitable largely depends on the parent’s relationship with the child(ren). A successful Parenting Plan requires parents to be flexible, reliable and cooperative.
Where do I start in sorting out the children’s care and time with each parent?
Ideally parents should reach agreement in relation to the care arrangements for children on the breakdown of their relationship. Consult a family lawyer on the types of orders that you should consider and carefully consider what orders would be in the best interests of the children.
What if we can’t agree? What’s FDRP?
- There are many organisations with Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners (FDRP) who are able to work with families in helping parents reach agreement in relation to the care arrangements for their children.
- There are also information programs for separating parents, including those run at Family Relationship Centres, Unifam, Relationships Australia. These programs include parenting after separation, communication after separation and kids in focus and are helpful for parents in understanding their children’s needs and helping them focus on meeting those needs as parents.
- There are also private Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners and children’s psychologists and family therapists who can also provide support and guidance at this time.
Ask one of our Family Law Team for more information.
What’s the next step if the parents refuse to agree about our children’s care or time with me?
Prior to commencing any Court proceedings seeking parenting Orders, unless an exception applies – particularly in cases of family violence – both parents meet with a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner in an effort to resolve the parenting arrangements for their children.
The Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner issues a certificate called a Section 60I if there is no agreement reached, which must be filed with any parenting application in the Court. This certificate, amongst other things, tells the Court that the parties have not reached an agreement, made an effort to attend or whether mediation was inappropriate in the circumstances.
If parents can reach an agreement with the assistance of a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner or otherwise between themselves, they can enter into court orders or a parenting plan to document their agreement.
Before entering into parenting Orders or a Parenting Plan, it is sensible to obtain legal advice as wording must reflect the exact agreement. Any breaches of Court Orders can lead to penalties and legal costs.