Parenting Plan vs Consent order

Upon the breakdown of a marriage or defacto relationship, when parents decide that separation or divorce is the only viable option for their family, one of the most important considerations the parents must address is managing their children’s best interests.  During this very emotional and tumultuous time, parents must put their children’s interests first and foremost and create a suitable “plan” that attempts to maintain a safe and healthy family dynamic.  
Creating a suitable parenting plan that address your children’s best interests is no simple task, and can be rife with disagreement between the parents.  This is often due to the many considerations parents must discuss in relation to their children; such as a weekly routine schedule between two households, holiday parenting time, vacations with the children, parental responsibility, communication, extra-curricular activities, and particular restraints (such as not speaking negatively about the other parent whilst in the presence of the children), just to name a few. How parents come to reach an agreement on a parenting plan if often best accomplished through mediation, and the help of professionals; such as a parenting course or lawyer.  The ages of the children, how many children, the children's disposition and the location of each parent are all considerations that the parties must consider.

Once the parties have come to an arrangement regarding a parenting plan, through mediation or their own means, they must decide whether or not to “formalize” their respective plan through the Court, or to simply have their plan between themselves, usually in writing and signed by both parents.  

A parenting plan that is not formalized through the Court process is simply an agreement between the parents to guide them in the handling and decision making process of their children, setting out certain obligations and considerations the parents deem in the best interest of their children. A parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement, but can be used as evidence in Court should the need arise. A parenting plan must be agreed to by both parents without duress or coercion. A parenting plan is easy to modify as well, should the parents agree to any changes, which is often helpful as children grow older, and their needs and schedules change. 

Consent Orders are legally enforceable orders which are made by the Court. They are final and binding on both parties, and can be enforced should a parent breach the order. The process involves filing an Application for Consent Orders with the Family Law Court. The Order as submitted to the Court will request the Court approve the parenting plan that the parents had agreed to. So in essence, once the parents have agreed to a parenting plan, they can simply submit that plan to the Court through the Application process mentioned above. Parents can draft Consent Orders themselves using a kit, however, we highly recommend the advice of a lawyer in this process.

As always, it helps to consult with a family lawyer on any issue you may be facing, whether large or small. We pride ourselves on giving legal advice honest, timely, and backed by our years of experience. 


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