Separation can be an extremely difficult time for everyone involved, particularly children. An agreed parenting plan can be a very helpful tool to successful co-parenting beyond separation.

It is beneficial for all parties to have some certainty about the future. A clearly written parenting plan will specify the arrangements that need to be put in place for the children and will help both parents know what is expected of them moving forward.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written document that outlines the commitments and agreements you’ve made with your former partner regarding how you intend to raise your children.

The parenting plan puts the best interests of the child first. It is worked out and agreed jointly between the parents. There is no need to go to Court to prepare a parenting plan.

It must be made without any duress or coercion, in writing and signed by both parents.

What should be included in a parenting plan?

Your parenting plan should include:

  • Living arrangements for the children
  • Regular visitation schedule
  • Arrangements over school holidays
  • Arrangements on birthdays (of both the parents and the children)
  • Arrangements for other special occasions (Mother’s Day, Father’s day, Easter and Christmas)
  • Transportation and changeover arrangements
  • A method of how any changes to the schedule are to be proposed and negotiated
  • Back up childcare arrangements (e.g. maternal or paternal grandparents)
  • How any interstate or overseas holidays will be addressed
  • Plans to maintain relationships with extended family members
  • If applicable, instructions for administering medication to the children
  • Sleeping arrangements for children (e.g., they must have their own bedroom)
  • Parent to parent communication guidelines.

What is not covered?

Your parenting plan will not cover the division of your assets and liabilities.

To discuss your property settlement, you should obtain advice from a lawyer to ensure your settlement is fair and that your best interests, and those of your children are protected.

Can a parenting plan be changed?

Reviews to your parenting plan can be done at anytime, providing both parents agree. You can also include a formal review date in your parenting plan.

Who can help us develop a parenting plan?

There are many things for parents to consider when entering into a parenting plan. There is always a risk that you may not include a key item in a plan that you develop with the other parent without any support.

Our family law team has developed hundreds of parenting plans – and you can benefit from our experience to ensure the best interests of your children are protected. We always recommend getting legal advice before signing a parenting order.

Developing a plan can also be difficult if your relationship with the other parent is antagonistic. If a parenting plans cannot be worked out personally between the parties, a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner can also assist. Family Dispute Resolution is a process in which a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner helps people going through a separation, resolve their disputes with each other.

Children can also be involved in this process. They will not be responsible for decision making, but the parties are able to obtain an insight into their thoughts and what is important to them.

What is the difference between a parenting plan and a Parenting Order?

A parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement.

It is different to a Parenting Order which is made by a Court. In some instances, parents can agree to change a Parenting Order by entering into a parenting plan.

You can also choose to submit your parenting plan to the Court (by way of an Application for Consent Orders) and have the details of the plan built into binding Parenting Orders. This then makes what you have agreed together legally enforceable.