What is a Parenting Plan and is it Legally Binding?
Going through a separation or divorce is an extremely stressful time, made even harder when you have to consider a child/children and the potential impact your separation will have on them. Developing some type of parenting agreement, or parenting plan, that works for both you and your ex-partner is vitally important in these circumstances. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is a written agreement that sets out your agreed parenting arrangements for your child/children. There is no requirement for you to complete one upon separation, it is entirely voluntary. The agreement may be written either independently by you and your partner, or together with the help of a lawyer or mediator. To be considered a Parenting Plan under the Family Law Act 1975, the Plan must be agreed upon and signed by both parents.
A Parenting Plan covers the day to day responsibilities of each parent toward the child/children and considers the practicalities of a child’s day to day life. Parenting Plans may include your agreements on topics such as:
- How much time the child/children will spend with each parent;
- Who the child/ren will live with;
- How the parents will navigate any important long term issues about their child/children;
- How the child/children will communicate and spend time with other important people in their lives, such as step-parents, grandparents and friends;
- Arrangements for school holidays and other important occasions such as Christmas, Easter, and birthdays;
- How the Parenting Plan may be changed or altered if needed; and
- Any other issues about parental responsibility or the care, welfare and development of the child/children.
If you and your ex-partner can agree on the terms set out in the Parenting Plan, there may be no need to go through the Court’s litigation process to finalise Parenting Orders. Any Court Orders can take some time to finalise, so having an agreed, workable Parenting Plan can save both time and money. That said, whilst a helpful indication and record of the parties’ intentions at that time, Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable, so if you have concerns that your ex-partner may breach the agreement, a Parenting Plan may not be the best option for you.
What is a Parenting Order?
Similar to a Parenting Plan, a Parenting Order is a written agreement, but unlike the Parenting Plan it is agreed to and sealed by the Court, and is legally enforceable. Applying for a Parenting Order is a good idea if you and your ex-partner agree on the terms of parenting, but you are worried that your ex-partner may not comply with a Parenting Plan, or in circumstances where you cannot reach agreement and need the Court to assist in the process.
If either party fails to comply with Court Orders, penalties such as changes to the Order, financial compensation or community service may be imposed.
The welfare and best interests of the child/children are always the priority of the Court when making Orders affecting children.
If you are going through a divorce or separation, particularly if it involves children, and want to know how we can help you, please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable Adelaide Legal team on (08) 8410 9294, or by email – contact us.