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What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a non-enforceable written agreement about parenting. Parenting plans are simple (and cost effective) to create and to amend as required. Both parents must agree first to enter into a parenting plan and secondly there must be agreement as to the terms of the parenting plan.

A parenting plan does not require any specific formatting or legalistic language. The plan should be written in understandable terms that clearly identifies which parent is expected to fulfill which role, within a particular time-frame.

Parenting plans typically cover the following issues (among other things):

  • which parent(s) will exercise long term decision making power (known as "parental responsibility")
  • which parent the children will live with for the majority of the time
  • what time will the children spend with the other parent
  • where changeover will take place
  • how each parent may communicate with the children when they are with the other parent
  • special arrangements for holidays and special days (such as Christmas, Mother's and Father's Day etc)
  • travel arrangements, including the issue of passports

Parenting Plans Vs Parenting Orders

A parenting plan is not legally enforceable. This is a significant disadvantage, and we typically advise that a parenting plan is only suitable for the most agreeable and cooperative separated parents.

A parenting order is legally enforceable. For this reason, parenting orders are generally the safer option compared with non-enforceable parenting plans. Parenting orders can be made by consent, and it is therefore possible to convert a parenting plan into parenting orders by filing an Application for Consent Orders with the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Where agreement cannot be reached, parenting orders may be obtained by filing an Initiating Application with the Federal Circuit and Family Court. Prior to commencing proceedings, parties will be generally be required to obtain a certificate from an approved practitioner stating that they have made a genuine attempt to resolve their dispute by participating in Family Dispute Resolution.

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