As discussed in our article “Family Law: Formalising Agreements reached between the parties by Deeds of Settlement & Court Orders”, there are many different ways parties in a Family Law dispute are able to finalise their agreement. One option for parenting matters is for parents to enter into a Family Parenting Plan.
What is a Parenting Plan?
Family Law Parenting Plans are written, signed and dated agreements between separated parents that deal with parenting matters. These agreements are as individual as the family involved. There is no “standard” parenting arrangement and parenting arrangements could include a number of issues such as:
- Where a child will live and with whom;
- What time a child will spend with other family members (such as grandparents);
- Who will make decisions for the child and the principles for making those decisions;
- Child maintenance matters;
- How the parents will resolve disputes about the terms or operation of the plan and communicate with each other;
- How to change the plan to accommodate for the changing needs of the parents and the child;
- Any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child including key issues such as:
- When and how a child will communicate with their parents;
- Where the parents will pick up and drop off a child;
- How the child will be disciplined;
- What school a child will attend;
- What medical arrangements will be made for a child;
- Arrangements for Christmas, Birthdays and special occasions; and
- Special arrangements necessary because of the child’s needs.
When can we enter into Parenting Plans?
Parenting plans may be entered into at any time during a parenting dispute. They can be entered into before or during legal proceedings.
They can also be varied or revoked by the parties through written consent.
Why should we enter into Parenting Plans?
Parenting plans are a generally cost-effective solution to resolving parenting matters without proceeding through Court proceedings. They also tend to be more flexible than Consent Orders. If the parenting relationship breaks down further and Court Proceedings are commenced, the Court will also consider any Parenting Plan entered into between the parents.
However, one of the disadvantages of Parenting Plans is that they are not enforceable by the Court, unlike Consent Orders, where a contravention application can be made if the Consent Orders are breached.
What is the process for entering into Parenting Plans?
It will firstly be important to negotiate the terms of the Parenting Plan. Parenting matters are often emotionally charged, and drafting terms of the agreement that are clear, concise, and able to last the test of time is an art. We do recommend that you obtain legal advice from a suitably experienced lawyer. This will help you to include all of the matters that should be included.
Understanding the practical meaning of the terms of the Parenting Plan is an important next step, so that the parties are able to carry out their agreement.
If a Parenting Plan deals with child maintenance matters, you may need to consider entering into a Binding Child Support Agreement as well.
Should we enter into a Parenting Plan?
While Parenting Plans can be an effective way to resolve a Family Law Parenting dispute, it may not the best option in all circumstances.