Separation and divorce is tough on families, especially children. Even when both parents want the best for their children, it can be difficult when emotions are running high and finances are involved.
If you can reach an agreement with the other parent about parenting arrangements, a Parenting Plan is a great start. But it’s important to understand the difference between types of agreements, and how best to protect yourself and your children.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is an informal agreement made between both parents which can cover information like:
- where your child lives including shared custody, scheduled visits, school holidays and special occasions like birthdays
- how you’ll work together to make any big decisions
- who your child spends time with
- who is in charge of day-to-day responsibilities like transport between houses, or medical appointments
- how you’ll resolve an issue if you disagree.
The agreement needs to be in writing and signed by both parents. There’s no special form or standard format for a Parenting Plan, so it’s a good idea to get help from an experienced Family Law solicitor to make sure all the important issues are covered.
Do we have to make a Parenting Plan?
No. But the law encourages parents to make their own parenting decisions, without the need for a court case. Agreeing on a Parenting Plan means you can avoid going to Court and having others make decisions about your children.
You don’t need to wait until you disagree before you get legal help with your Parenting Plan. Your Family Law solicitor can provide support to resolve any disputes and negotiate an agreement.
If you feel any pressure or threatened to agree to a decision, get independent legal advice before signing anything that will affect you and your children.
Is a Parenting Plan enough?
A Parenting Plan doesn’t have to be registered with the Family Court and is not ‘enforceable’. But to give both parties certainty, and provide security for your children, you can register the Plan with the Family Court.
How do I register a Parenting Plan as a Parenting Order?
If both parties agree on a Parenting Plan, you can choose to register it with the Family Court as a Parenting Order (called a Consent Order when both parties agree on it). You don’t need to attend a court proceeding, but each parent should receive independent legal advice.
A Parenting Order can also be made by the Court if parents can’t agree on arrangements. This takes the decision-making out of your hands and a judge will decide on arrangements based on what is best for the child’s welfare, and ensuring they maintain a relationship with both parents. The judge will take any existing Parenting Plans into account if they need to make a Parenting Order.
Which is the best choice for me?
Even if you’re getting on well with your ex, it’s still a good idea to register your Parenting Plan with the Court. If there is any history of abuse or violence, it’s essential to register the agreement for your own peace of mind.
We’re ready to help
Our experienced family law team will support you through making a Parenting Plan and registering it with the Family Court. We’re experts in managing separation and children’s issues, and reaching agreements to meet your children’s needs and maintain family relationships.
Even if you agree on a Parenting Plan with your ex, talk to a Family Law solicitor and register the Plan with the Family Court.