Managing parental rights and responsibilities is a crucial concern for separating parents. Following separation, parents are presented with different possible ways to record agreements regarding the parenting arrangements for their child or children. We are often asked whether it is best to enter into a Consent Order or a Parenting Plan.

In order to determine which option is most suitable for your circumstances, it is important to understand the key elements of both agreements.

Consent Orders

Consent Orders are a legally binding document that  is enforceable through the Courts if a parent fails to uphold the terms of the order This way can result in penalties and consequences on then on complying parent.

Consent Orders are a common way to record a parental agreement. They cover a variety of matters including; who the child lives with, time spent with the other parent, arrangements for special days, changeovers and communication, permissions to travel overseas with the child, and/or the exchange of personal information about a child between parents.

Consent Orders are filed with the Court and must be approved by the Court. Generally we suggest that if you have concerns about compliance with your agreement or poor communication and cooperation with your former spouse, that Consent Orders may be a preferable way to record your agreement.

Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan is a signed agreement between separated parents which outlines arrangements for the care of your children. This includes matters that are contained in Consent Orders. Parents may also use this document to record other agreements or statements of intent regarding their co-parenting generally or plans in relation to the financial support of their children post separation.

A Parenting Plan is not legally enforceable in a  court. However if you have a Parenting Plan and one party subsequently commences proceedings for Parenting Orders, the Court must have regard to the Parenting Plan. Similarly, a Parenting Plan that records agreements about the financial care of children post separation is not binding, but can be used as evidence with the Child Support Agency if there is a disagreement about expenses for your children and if they should be treated as a non-agency payment. Parenting Plans are a flexible and simple way to record  parenting agreements for children. They can also be used to record agreements regarding varying an existing parenting Order and in those circumstances possibly used as a defense in a contravention hearing.

We often recommend a Parenting Plan if you have a cooperative post separation co-parenting relationship and foresee the need to change your agreement in the future to accommodate changes in the needs of your children.  The non-binding nature of the document also means that the plans are simple to refine if situations change.

Which One is Right for You?

When deciding on whether you should implement a Consent Order or Parenting Plan, be sure about your decision and seek professional legal advice from a family law specialist to get the most out of your choice.


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