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Parenting Plans


Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans



Parenting Plans are traditionally more informal agreements between the parties and may also contain statements about their intentions toward the children and the other partner.

Consent Orders are more formal documents and should be 'phrased' correctly in a way that leaves no possibility of misinterpretation of the orders between the parties. Orders do not contain 'intent' phrases they are formal 'contractual' legally enforceable agreements and are phrased as such. There is NO legal difference between Consent Orders and orders made by a Judge or Federal magistrate.


A Family Relationship Counsellor or Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner must inform parties that:
  • If the arrangements are "reasonably practicable" and in the "best interests" of the child then the child spending equal time with each of them may be an option for them to consider.
  • If equal time is not appropriate but it is "reasonably practicable" and in the "best interests" of the child for the child to spend "substantial and significant time" with each of them then they should consider that option.
  • Parenting issues should focus on the best interests of the child.
  • The matters that may be dealt with in a Parenting Plan are set out in Section 63C (2) Family Law Act.
Many Family Relationship Counsellors have limited legal knowledge and may not understand the differences between 'Parenting Plans' and 'Orders' It does not take much for a Parenting Plan to be created, it is difficult for a Parenting Plan to be set aside and the effect of a Parenting Plan (particularly if there is already a Court Order in place) can be substantial if the matter re enters the Court system. Consent orders are a more formal document and advice should be sought before submitting them to a Court.

Note: If you have a case in the system (ie. File numbers issued) you can withdraw it by agreeing to Consent Orders.


Parenting Plans

Consent Orders

Parenting Plans were first introduced to the Family Law Act in 1996, they were later removed but have now been reintroduced with the amendments to the Family Law Act on 1 July 2006. Consent Orders are registered Court orders.
A Plan provides a way of documenting children's arrangements other than with a Court Order. Consent Orders also documents the arrangements for the children.
A Parenting Plan is an agreement in writing, that is made, dated and signed by both parents and which deals with arrangements for the children. Consent Orders are in writing, dated and signed by both parents and witnessed.
Parenting Plans can deal with a variety of matters, such as, who a child lives with or spends time with, whether parental responsibility is shared or allocated, dispute resolution and other aspects of care for the child. Consent Orders deal with the same issues.
A Parenting Plan can be made at anytime and anywhere. There is no standard form for a Parenting Plan so it is quite easy for a Parenting Plan to be made. Consent Orders can be made on the same basis. Consent orders are more formal, unambiguous and have a preferred layout.
A Parenting Plan can be made before or after 1 July 2006, it can be made inside or outside of Australia and it can be made with other people as parties to it other than the child's parents (including a grandparent or other relative of the child). Consent Orders can be made at any time but must be 'lodged and recorded' in a Family Court(s) registry. The most common type is party to party (Father and Mother).
A Parenting Plan can be revisited and updated to reflect the changes which occur from time to time. Consent Orders can be re lodged at any time to reflect any changes that have or are likely to occur. This can be done by (a) 'superseding all previous orders' or (b) amending previous existing orders ie Order 3A is replaced with x.
Parenting Plans are NOT registered with the Court and are NOT enforceable as Court Orders. Consent Orders ARE registered with the Court and ARE enforceable as Court Orders.
If a dispute between parents arises after a Parenting Plan has been prepared, the Court is entitled to look at the Parenting Plan as a reflection of the parties intention in guiding the Court as to what Order is appropriate. If a dispute arises (normally a contravention) after Consent orders have been lodged, the Court 'determines' the issue according to the wording of the orders.
If a Parenting Plan is made after a Court Order has been made then the Parenting Plan overrides the Court Order. Revised Consent Orders lodged with the Court override any other written agreements unless the Parenting Plan specifies this. Note: Parenting Plans are NOT enforceable.
A Parenting Plan may be varied or revoked by agreement in writing between the parties to the Plan. Consent Orders may be varied at any time by agreement between the parties and by re-lodging the 'amended' (revised) orders. The Courts do not charge for Consent Order lodgement.
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