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Parenting plans and consent orders

Living arrangements for children 

The Family Law Act encourages parents to resolve their parenting arrangements without Court proceedings and many parties opt to do this by entering into a parenting plan. If the matter goes to Court, then the Court will make decisions based on what’s best for the child, favouring both parents to be involved unless there is evidence that this is not in the best interest of the children. 

Parenting Plan 

A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out the parenting arrangements for children. It can include: 

  • Arrangements for who the child is to live with, spend time with and communicate with; 

  • Who has parental responsibility for the child; 

  • Maintenance of a child; 

  • Dispute resolution in the event disputes arise; 

  • Any other aspect of care, welfare or development of the child. 

This only needs to be written and signed freely (without threat, duress or coercion) between the parties to come into effect. An advantage of parenting plans is that they provide parents with more flexibility and the ability to easily change arrangements with minimal expense. This can be particularly useful when the children are young, and the needs of the children will change over a short period of time. 

Parenting plans are not enforceable by the court if they are breached, but the Court will take into consideration the terms of a parenting plan if court proceedings are commenced after the parties have entered into the plan. 

There is also the option for the parties to formalise their agreement by making an Application for Consent Orders. Subject to approval by the Court, the agreement made between the parties will then be made an Order, with either party able to utilise the Court for enforcement if needed. 

Consent Orders 

Consent Orders are legally enforceable Court Orders that are made with the best interests of the child in mind. 

In some cases, Consent Orders are necessary as they provide structure and certainty for parents and children. 

This area of family law can be a complex matter, and the Court also considers the rights of others (apart from parents) to be involved in the child’s life, which includes grandparents, other relatives and foster parents. 

If parents cannot reach agreement on parenting arrangements between themselves, the next step is Family Dispute Resolution, which is mediation to try and assist the parents reach agreement. 


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