Children’s care arrangements following separation

Following a separation parents do not have to go to court about the care arrangements
for their children. As a matter of principle we encourage our clients to reach an
agreement if possible without the need to resort to the Family Law courts. One
advantage in reaching an agreement is that the legal fees will be much less than
otherwise. That is not to say that a person should reach agreement unreasonably.
Parents who are able to reach an agreement regarding care arrangements for their
children have two ways to formalise their agreement. If you and your former partner
agree on the future arrangements, you can either make a parenting plan or obtain
consent orders approved by a court.
Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a written agreement that is made between the parents of a child or
children. A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out parenting arrangements
for each child, is signed by the parents of the child, is dated and deals with matters in
regards to the care arrangements for the child. Because it is worked out and agreed
jointly, you and your former partner do not need to go to court.
Parenting plans can also deal with child support payments.
However, it should be noted that a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable
agreement. Therefore parents who elect to enter into a parenting plan are often those
parents without issues regarding trust, reliability, or dishonesty regarding the other
parent. If there are real and serious issues between the parties then a parenting plan
may not be ideal.
Putting it another way, parenting plans are very useful where parents can cooperate and
agree about the care arrangements for the child the subject of the parenting plan.
Consent Orders
The second option available to formalise any agreement is to ask the Court to make
‘Consent Orders’ approving the terms of the agreement between the parents. This is by
far the more common way for parents to agree to the care arrangements for the
Consent Orders can only deal with the care arrangements for children and cannot deal
with child support for the child the subject of the Consent Orders.
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Consent Orders can also deal with the following issues regarding the care arrangements
for the child:
 whether the parents are to have equal shared parental responsibilities or specify
the division of parental responsibilities between them
 with whom the child lives
 whether the children will spend equal time with each parent or “substantial” and
“significant” time with a parent, including specific details of how the child will
spend time with each parent
 the child spending ‘special days’ with each parent such as Christmas, Easter,
birthdays, father’s and mother’s days as examples
 the time a child will spend with a grandparent or other relative
 the communication a child will have with another parent or person
 if two or more persons share parental responsibilities, the form of consultation
required between the persons
 any aspect of the care, welfare and development of the child, including education
(the school the child will attend), health, religion and cultural aspects, including
any travel arrangements
It is important to note that Consent Orders are enforceable by the Court. This is
because they are filed in the Family Court and become an Order of the Court. In these
circumstances, if a parent fails to comply with the Order without the consent of the other
parent, it is possible to ask the Court to enforce the Order.
In cases where there is a risk that one parent will not return the child to the other parent
after they have spent time with that parent, the other party will find this beneficial.
If you know someone who may need assistance, call us on 02 9191 9293 or email us for more information