Parenting Plan or Parenting Orders?

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out parenting arrangements for a child. The plan is discussed and agreed jointly between parents without a need to go to court and is intended to provide a simple and less formal process for documenting agreements about parenting between parents.

To be recognised as a parenting plan under the Family Law Act 1975 the document must be made, signed and dated by both parents of the child, though others (such as grandparents or step-parents) can be included.

A parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement and is different from a parenting order which is made by a court.

What are parenting orders?

Parenting orders are defined in the Family Law Act 1975 and deal with where a child is to live, the time that a child spends with another person and the circumstances as to how that time is spent, parental responsibility, and ‘any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child or any other aspect of parental responsibility for a child’.

A parenting order can deal with who a child will live with, the time the child will spend with each parent and other people, such as grandparents, parental responsibility, communication and any other aspect of the care, welfare and development of the child.

Who can apply for a parenting order?

Applications for parenting orders can be brought by either or both of the child’s parents, the child, a grandparent of the child or any other person concerned with the care, welfare or development of the child.

Which is better, parenting plan or parenting orders?

We recommend that parenting orders be obtained, this is because parenting orders are legally enforceable.

Your parenting plan can be turned into parenting orders. From a practical point of view, it is a good idea to agree on a parenting plan first, and then to have this parenting plan turned into parenting consent orders by the court.

If you are unable to agree, you can still apply to the court for parenting orders to be made, but these will not be consent orders. Instead, you will need to file an initiating application to the court and the orders will only be made after a court hearing or trial.