As defined by Section 63C of the Family Law Act 1975, a Parenting Plan is a written and signed agreement between parties to a family law matter made free from any threat, duress or coercion. As opposed to Consent Orders, Parenting Plans are flexible, non-binding and can be changed upon a written agreement between the parties.
Parenting Plans can address a variety of different issues and set out the intentions of parents regarding:
1. Parental responsibility;
2. Who the children live with;
3. How the children spend time with the other parent;
4. Communication between parents and children etc.
Although the non-binding nature of these agreements can have its advantages, a Parenting Plan cannot be upheld or enforced when one or both parties do not uphold their side of the bargain.
A Court will consider the intentions of the parties in entering into a Parenting Plan however, the Courts are not bound by the terms of a Parenting Plan and are open to make Orders pursuant to the Court’s paramount consideration, the best interests of the child.
Parenting Plans are often preferable to parents who are seeking to limit legal costs or who fear entering into the Family Court system. Parenting Plans are also an effective tool for parents whose relationship remains amicable after separation.
Consent Orders take similar form to a Parenting Plan however go one step further and require the parties to make an application to the Court for a binding Order. The terms of these Orders, before being made will be considered by a registrar or judge, once the Court is satisfied that the proposed terms are in the best interests of the child the Court will make Orders accordingly. These Orders are then legally enforceable. In this circumstance, if one of the parties contravenes the Orders without a reasonable excuse, the other party to the family law matter can make an application to the Court regarding this contravention and penalties may apply.
At Baker Love Lawyers, we almost always recommend that our clients enter into Consent Orders as there is no way to know when a relationship may break down or become sour. Consent Orders act as a deterrent to go against the intentions and agreement between the parties as well as providing an avenue for enforcement if the agreement is breached.