If you and your former partner are able to communicate with each other reasonably well and you have the ability to trust each other with the children, then a Parenting Plan may be the right option for you.
A Parenting Plan must be in writing, be signed and dated by the separated parents and must set out the parenting arrangements for the children, such as with whom they will live, the time they will spend with the other parent, how the parents will communicate with each other about the children, changeover locations, it can contain provisions for child support and many other topics. They are also handy when you have existing Court Orders which have some out of date clauses because the children have grown up. A subsequent Parenting Plan can override part or all of the existing Orders.
The advantage of having a Parenting Plan is that it is flexible, but they are not legally enforceable. However, they can be used as evidence in Court of your prior agreement. So, you need to be careful not to agree to arrangements that you do not think will work as you may need to convince a Court why a change to the arrangement should be made.
Parenting Orders are legally enforceable are not necessarily as flexible as a Parenting Plan. If you breach Orders, you can be brought before the Court and if you are found guilty of a breach, you may be punished with a fine, be ordered to provide make up time, or some other remedy may be ordered. The benefit of having Orders is because they are enforceable, they will give you more certainty about the parenting arrangements.
As with a Parenting Plan, Orders can cover many topics including where there children live and the time they will spend with the other parent, whether the long term decisions such as which school they attend will be a shared responsibility, how the parents communicate with each other, how the children’s medical needs will be met and overseas travel. It is important to note that it is an offence to travel overseas with a child once you have parenting Orders in place unless you have the written consent of the other parent or an Order of the Court. Whereas, if you only have a Parenting Plan in place, then that prohibition does not apply.
Final Parenting Orders remain in force until a child turns 18 years of age and can be made after a Court hearing or trial, or by consent if all parties are in agreement. Once you have final Orders, they are difficult to change unless there has been a significant change in circumstances such as a parent relocating to another State or Territory.
Before entering into a Parenting Plan or applying for Parenting Orders, it is important that you obtain legal advice about what is best in your circumstances. Our lawyers at Neilan Stramandinoli Family Law can provide that advice to you.
Please contact our team if you would like further information and advice about your family law matter on (02) 6152 0493 to arrange a fixed fee appointment with one of our family lawyers.