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Parenting Agreements: Part 1- Parenting Plans

Nov 24, 2017

The following is the first instalment of a two-part series of articles on parenting agreements. This part focuses on a form of parenting agreement which is neither legally binding nor enforceable: Parenting Plans. Part 2 examines Parenting Orders, which are legally binding and enforceable. In reaching either form of parenting agreement, the best interest of the child is paramount.

Parenting Plan:

Under the Family Law Act, 1975 parents are encouraged to reach an informal agreement about their parenting arrangements (without court intervention). Parents are encouraged to agree about matters relating to the child, take responsibility for their parenting arrangements and for resolving parental conflict, use the legal system as a last resort, reduce the possibility of conflict by using or reaching an agreement, and regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

Unlike a parenting order, a parenting plan is NOT a legally binding or enforceable agreement. It is intended to be a parenting arrangement, in relation to children, made in good faith. A party cannot be breached by a court for not following a parenting plan. However, when making a parenting order in relation to a child, the court must consider the terms of the most recent parenting plan (if any) entered into between the parents if considering it would be in the best interests of the child.

Although a parenting plan is considered an informal mode of parenting agreement, the Family Law Act 1975 provides that certain formal requirements must be met. A parenting plan must be in writing, between the parents of a child, signed by the parents of the child, and dated. Additionally, a parenting plan must deal with one or more of the following matters:

  • the person/s with whom a child is to live;
  • the time a child is to spend with another person or other persons;
  • the allocation of parental responsibility for a child;
  • if 2 or more persons are to share parental responsibility for a child the form of consultations those persons are to have with one another about decisions to be made in the exercise of that responsibility;
  • the communication a child is to have with another person or other persons;
  • maintenance of a child;
  • the process to be used for resolving disputes about the terms or operation of the plan;
  • the process to be used for changing the plan to take account of the changing needs or circumstances of the child or the parties to the plan; and
  • any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child or any other aspect of parental responsibility for a child.

Key Point:

The key difference between a parenting plan and a parenting order is that a parenting plan is neither legally binding nor enforceable. Further, whilst many of the matters covered by a parenting plan are covered in parenting orders, a parenting order may deal with other matters. This will not uncommonly occur when interim parenting orders are made during court proceedings. See Part 2 of this article which examines parenting orders by way of (non-litigious) Application for Consent Orders versus (litigious) Initiating Applications used to commence proceedings.

Contact us

Contact Davoren Associates to discuss your circumstances. Our team of dedicated professionals are happy to assist you through this often stressful time. We aim to make the process as simple as possible whilst ensuring you have received comprehensive legal advice specific to your individual Family Law needs.

If you would like further information or wish to schedule an initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us on (07) 5575 2844. Our Family Law team will be only too happy to assist you with all your needs.