Understanding the Difference Between Parenting Plans and Consent Orders

When it comes to family law, disputes over parenting arrangements are stressful times in anyone’s life. Often, either a parenting plan or a consent order is involved. But what are they? How are they different from one another, and how do you know which one is best for you? We’ll go over all of this and more below.

Defining a Parenting Plan


In the simplest terms, a parenting plan is an informal written agreement that is dated and signed by both parents. The parenting plan generally outlines parenting arrangements for the child(ren) such as;

  • Who the child lives with;
  • Who the child spends time with;
  • Arrangements for special occasions and holidays; and
  • Procedures for long-term decision making for the child such as health and education.

It’s essential to note that a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement.

Defining a Consent Order


A consent order is also a written agreement regarding care arrangements for the child or children, however, a consent order has the approval of the court. Before approving a consent order, the Court must be satisfied that the orders requested are in the best interest of the child. Consent Orders have the same legal weight as any court-issued document.

How Consent Orders and Parenting Plans Differ


The biggest difference between parenting plans and consent orders is that the court cannot legally enforce a parenting plan, but they can enforce a consent order. If you fail to follow a consent order, you may end up with fines or even a jail sentence.

Which One Should You Apply For?


If you can come to parenting arrangements on your own, this could be better for everyone involved. There’s no added stress of hearings or court dates, and it’s more cost-effective. If you trust your co-parent and you both go into the parenting agreements with the child’s best interest in mind, a parenting plan may be the best option. If you are concerned that one side will breech the parenting arrangement, it may be best to get a family lawyer involved.

What Happens if You Can’t Reach a Resolution?


If you are unable to come to an agreeable resolution regarding the parenting arrangement of your child(ren), you may need to take it to a family law practice. A family dispute resolution team will step in and help to mediate between both parties. If you still can’t come to an agreement, it could go to trial before a judge. The judge will look at both sides and rule on the parenting arrangements.

Different states and territories in Australia have different rules, regulations and laws regarding parenting plans and consent orders. It is a good idea to check with your local family law office if you have questions or concerns.

To get in touch with the experienced and approachable team of Family Lawyers at East Coast Law Family Law, please call us on 1300 735 947.


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