What is a Parenting Plan?

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You don’t need to be a parent to sign a Parenting Plan.

Grandparents, siblings and significant others can sign a Parenting Plan or have their wishes included in a Parenting Plan.

A Parenting Plan is:

  • A written agreement between the people caring for the child, which is dated and signed by the caring parties and entered into free from any threats, pressure or intimidation;
  • Individually tailored to your family and can include whatever the caring parties agree to include in their Parenting Plan; and
  • An agreement which can be reached without the intervention of the Family Court, and in most cases, is unenforceable.

Nevertheless, a Parenting Plan can be used in Family Court proceedings as evidence of a parenting arrangement and can be provided to the Child Support Agency to support an application for a child support assessment.

Whilst every family is different, it may be useful to include some of the following arrangements in your Parenting Plan:

Spend Time Arrangements

  • Who the child lives with;
  • When the child will spend time with the non-resident carer, including school holidays;
  • Who and when the child will spend time on special occasions such as Easter, Christmas, Other Religious Celebrations, Birthdays, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day;

Communication

  • How the carers will communicate with each other (e.g. by text message only);
  • How and when the child will communicate with the other carer and significant others when they are away from home (face time, Skype etc);
  • To not denigrate the other carer or their family members;
  • How to reach agreement on major long-term decisions, which may include, but no be limited to:  the school the child will attend, religion, health, relocation and change of name;

Dispute Resolution

  • A review date to reconsider and update the Parenting Plan, especially if the child is young; and
  • A process to resolve any future disputes between the carers.

A Parenting Plan should be simple, practical, and have the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.

Why is a Parenting Plan a good idea?

If you can reach an agreement, a functional Parenting Plan can work really well.
Parenting Plans enable parents to be flexible and promote a positive co-parenting environment, particularly if they have a good working relationship.

Parenting Plans can also contain any issues the parents have reached an agreement about.

The main advantage of a Parenting Plan is that the Family Court is not involved, and the parents are making active and joint decisions about their children.  You both remain in control of the arrangements for your children.

There is also no requirement for either party to obtain legal advice before entering into a Parenting Plan.

Why won’t a Parenting Plan work for me?

Sometimes a Parenting Plan might not be the most effective way to manage the care arrangements for your children.

Unfortunately, a Parenting Plan is not enforceable by the Family Court or any other state authority. This means that either parent can unilaterally change their mind at any time.  This may cause problems for you if communication between you and your ex-partner is unpredictable and acrimonious.

Depending on your circumstances, it may not be safe or appropriate for a Parenting Plan to be in place. For example, if there is a history of family violence, sexual abuse, or drug & alcohol abuse by either or both parents, then a parenting plan may not provide your children with necessary safeguards to protect them from unhealthy or violent environments.

In circumstances where family violence or abuse are evident, then you will most likely need to put enforceable orders in place that protect the safety of your children.

Our professional team has the skills and knowledge necessary to guide you through this process. By seeking informed advice, you can make sure that you have appropriate safeguards in place for your children so that they can continue to develop a meaningful relationship with both parents (if appropriate) but within safe, and enforceable arrangements.

For information about enforceable parenting arrangements click here.