Australian Parenting Plans and Parenting Orders
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
A parenting plan is an informal agreement that the parents make in order to determine how they will continue to care for and support their children when they are no longer together.
In Australia, when parents divorce or separate they need to make parenting arrangements for their children.
Parents are encouraged to meet together and write their agreement down in a plan instead of relying on verbal agreements.
You are encouraged by the Family Law Act to cooperate and work together to come up with a parenting plan for your children.
This benefits you and your child because making a good parenting plan can help your child adjust better to the new family circumstances.
Cooperating with the other parents can also help you avoid disagreements in the future as well as lengthy and costly court battles.
If you need assistance, you can look to outside sources to help you create an agreement. You can attend mediation or seek out other professionals who work with family dispute resolution to help you.
Keep in mind that you are not alone. Many separated parents are able to sit down together and work out a plan, but just as many have a hard time agreeing on a plan with the other parent and need help.
You can include any information you want in your parenting plan. Because you and the other parent create a plan together, you can make decisions about how to best care for your child according to what is best for your situation.
Usually, parenting plans include at least some of the following information:
- Who the child will live with
- A parenting time schedule that shows when each parent has the child
- How the parents will share parental responsibility and make decisions for and about the child
- What activities each parent will do with the child and who will attend the child's important events
- A process for making changes to the plan as the child's needs change
- A method for resolving disputes or a way to solve problems that arise
- Arrangements for holidays, birthdays, school breaks, and other special occasions
- Financial arrangements for the child
- What time the child will spend with other people (grandparents, siblings, other relatives)
- Special provisions and stipulations about how the parents will provide and care for the child
- How the parents will communicate about the child
- How the child will keep in touch with other people when the child is with each parent
As you make a parenting plan in Australia, you should consider the following from the Family Law Act:
- A parenting plan does not have information about how you and the other parent will divide up your cash, home, and assets (this is called a Property Settlement).
- As circumstances change, you may need to revise your plan to meet the needs of your child.
- Your parenting plan should be in writing and signed and dated by both parents. It should also be made free from any threat, pressures, or coercion.
- A parenting plan is not legally enforceable, but if both parents agree on the arrangements you can submit your plan to the Family Court and the details of your plan will then be put into a parenting order (which is legally enforceable).
- You can change your plan at any time by writing out a new plan with the other parent and having both parents sign it.
- You can change your parenting order by writing out a new parenting plan.
- The law presumes that it is in the best interest of the child for both parents to have equal shared parental responsibility (this does not mean that the child spends equal time with both parents).
Your parenting plan should be unique to your situation and focus on what will best help your child. You can consider finding out some of your child's living preferences and putting them in the plan if you think it is appropriate.
Remember to keep your plan practical, simple, and as concrete as possible so that both parents fully understand and can follow it.
While a parenting plan is more of an informal agreement between the parents, a parenting order is a legally enforceable document that parents are required to abide by.
Parents may resort to obtaining a parenting order when they cannot agree on a parenting plan, or when parents want to make their parenting plan into an official legal document.
All Australian parenting orders must be approved (or created) by the Family Court.
If you wish to obtain a parenting order based on an agreed upon parenting plan, you must submit your plan to the Family Court for approval. The court will review it before making it into an order.
If you are unable to agree on a parenting plan, you will have to have a court hearing or a trial. In a hearing or trial, the Family Court will listen to the parents' ideas for parenting arrangements and make an order that the parents must follow.
The Family Court will issue a parenting order, which usually contain information about one or more of the following:
- Who the child will live with
- How much time the child will spend with each parent
- How much time the child will spend with other people, such as grandparents
- The allocation of parental responsibility
- How the child will communicate with a parent they do not live with
- A process for how the parents will resolve disputes that arise from the order
- Any other aspect of the care, welfare, or development of the child
An order can be changed if you and the other parent develop a parenting plan and both agree to the new terms and conditions.
Until then, the parenting order is a legal document and both parents are required by law to follow it. If the court finds that you have failed to follow an order you can be fined, imprisoned, ordered to attend parenting classes, etc.
The Australian Federal States and Territories (by population, 2010) are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Australian Antarctic Territory.