Resolving Parenting Matters Before Going to Court

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In a family relationship breakdown, the issue of parenting responsibilities and parenting time are important issues, and rightfully so.

While most parents are able to reach an agreement on parenting matters without going to Court, a small number of parents are unable to resolve parenting matters via agreement.

There are benefits from having a written plan or agreement for how you are going to manage parenting matters.  Having it written down makes it clear to everyone what is expected and gives stability. It also helps to minimize disagreements and misunderstandings.

What are my options?

Two options recognised by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) are available to parents who are able to resolve parenting matters without going to Court. These options are:

  1. Parenting Plans
  2. Consent Orders

Both these options allow for parents to tailor the agreement for parenting arrangements to each of their own unique circumstances. For example, both options are able to address issues and put in place agreements for a variety of parenting matters, including the following (without limitation):

  • How major long term parenting decisions are made (such as decisions about schools, medical treatments, and religion)
  • Who the children live with
  • Who the children spend time with (e.g. grandparents)
  • What sort of activities should the child be taken to over the weekends
    and
  • When and how do parents spend time with the child (e.g. parents rotate weekends with the children, arrangements for special days such as birthdays, Christmas, father’s and mother’s day, etc).

Parenting Plans

A parenting plan is an informal parenting arrangement. It must be in writing, and dated and signed by both parents. A parenting plan can be cancelled or changed at any time by making a new written, dated and signed agreement between the people who signed the original plan.

However, parenting plans are not enforceable by a Court. That means that if someone breaches a parenting plan, they can’t be punished. However, if the matter goes before a Court, the Court is required to consider what was in the parenting plan.

Consent Orders

In contrast, a Consent Order is a more formal agreement, and is enforceable by a Court. It is the agreement reached, filed in the Court with other documents, that subsequently becomes an order of the Court. If there is a later parenting plan, it can sometimes change the Court Orders.

Breaching a Consent Order is a breach of an order of a Court. Penalties apply for breaching a Court Order, including in some cases, jail. Take a look at our page which covers contravening parenting orders for more information.