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 with the other parent, if possible and reasonable to do so, without the need to resort to the Family Law courts, which will save on legal fees.
Parents who are able to reach an agreement have two ways to formalise their agreement; by either a parenting plan or obtaining consent orders approved by the Court. Read more about parenting matters in Family Law.
A parenting plan is a written agreement that is made between the parents that sets out parenting arrangements for each child. Parenting Plans are not required to be approved by the Court as it is a mutually agreed proposal by the parents.
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.
Parenting plans are very useful when the parents can cooperate and agree about the care arrangements for the children. Parenting plans can also deal with child support payments.
The second option available to formalise any agreement is by ‘Consent Orders’ of the Court, approving the terms of the agreement between the parents.
Consent Orders can only deal with the care arrangements for children and cannot deal with child support issues.
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
Consent Orders are enforceable by the Court, and therefore, if a parent fails to comply with the Orders, with the consent of the other parent, it is possible to ask the Court to enforce the Order.
Consent Orders are beneficial where there is a risk that a parent will not return the children to the other parent.
If you know someone who may need assistance, call us on 07 4637 6300 at our Toowoomba office, 07 4622 1944 at our Roma office, or 07 4661 1977 at our Warwick office. Alternatively, you may also send through an enquiry using our contact form for more information.
Our family lawyers are experienced in these matters and can provide you with the advice you need during an often difficult time.