What is a Parenting Plan and is it right for me?
Upon the breakdown of a relationship, it is usual for parties to need to come to considered agreement about how it is that the children in the relationship will be looked after. Often those arrangements are recorded in a set of Court Orders, which are binding upon the parties and can be enforced should they not be complied with.
However, Orders are not for everyone. They are often prescriptive, and lock people into arrangements without the flexibility that would otherwise be helpful in their dealings with each other, and particularly for the children. Sometimes, Orders are not required at all in circumstances where the parties get along and are able to communicate effectively without there being any document that indicates how the children should be cared for.
The middle ground is a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan does not have the effect of orders, in that it cannot be enforced in a Court. What it does is sets out in as much detail as the parties may want how arrangements for the children should be implemented.
The benefit of a Parenting Plan is often that issues can be included in a Parenting Plan that are generally not included in Orders. Furthermore, it can include “mission statements”, or vague suggestion of how things should happen, without the need to draft a provision in a Parenting Plan as if it was an Order that is, with a view to how it would be enforced if it was not followed.
My experience is that Parenting Plans are ideal for parties that do not believe that the other party will ever make life difficult, and that a degree of flexibility would be of benefit to the children. It may include child support provisions (which orders will generally not do) and it can be varied or revoked by further written agreement (unlike orders, which will require there to be a significant change in circumstances for a Court to interfere with them).
Family Law Solicitors are obliged under the Family Law Act to inform parties of the existence of Parenting Plans and how it is that they may be of assistance. The frames of the Family Law Act, and Courts generally, believe that Parenting Plans are of assistance insofar as they will ensure that the most minor of issues which would otherwise clog up the Court system if brought back before it can be dealt with sensibly and maturely with the parents.
However, any time there is, for example, family violence, or significant concerns about whether a party may deny the other party time with their child, or otherwise abscond with a child, then Court Orders are, in reality, the only way forward.
If you require any advice as to whether a Parenting Plan may be suitable to you, or whether you otherwise require Orders, please do not hesitate to contact our Accredited Specialist: