Family Law Blog

Orders or Parenting Plans – Which one is for you?

Posted by Carli Heald on 16 Sep 2019

It is often the case that separated parents are able to reach an agreement about the parenting arrangements for their child or children. 

Parenting arrangements for children which are agreed upon can be set out in either ‘Consent Orders’ or a ‘Parenting Plan’. 

Consent Orders

Consent orders are made by the Family Court of Australia in circumstances where parties have agreed on parenting arrangements without having had to file an application in court. 

Consent Orders can deal with a variety of matters including but not limited to:

  • Who has parental responsibility for the children;
  • Who the children live with, spend time with and communicate with;
  • Whether parties are permitted to travel overseas with children;
  • Provision of school reports/materials;
  • The exchange of information about children between parents; and,
  • Other specific issues related to various aspects of the children’s care.

Consent Orders are a legally binding document and can be enforced by the Court. Serious penalties can be imposed for breach of Orders including fines and in particularly serious circumstances, imprisonment. 

Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan is an agreement made between the separated parents that is signed, dated and in writing, that deals with the various aspects of the children’s care (including those matters that are commonly set out in Consent Orders, as listed above). 

In contrast to Consent Orders, a Parenting Plan cannot be enforced by the Court. Therefore, if one party does not comply with any of the matters set out in a Parenting Plan, the other parent has little recourse other than to re-negotiate the Parenting Plan, enter into Consent Orders or commence Court proceedings. If a matter proceeds to Court, a Court will have regard to the Parenting Plan that was in place.

Parenting Plans allow parties significant flexibility in parenting arrangements for their children. In addition, the non-binding nature of the document means that they are easier to re-negotiate and amend if circumstances change. Learn more about Parenting Plans.

So, Which One is for You?

In determining whether you should enter into a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders, it is important to obtain legal advice from specialist family law professionals.

If you have separated and are unsure what arrangements should be in place for your children, or how those arrangements should be formalised, contact: