A Parenting Order is an Order made by the relevant Court about care arrangements and matters to do with children. Parenting Orders can be made by consent (agreement by the parents) or by a Judge after a trial where parents cannot agree. Parenting Orders can be as comprehensive and detailed as you want, for example, the definition of when school holidays start—at the conclusion of school on the last day of term or the following morning at 9:00am. Parenting Orders can also be as simple and flexible as you like. The best sort of Parenting Orders generally provide for a default position in case you and your partner can’t reach an agreement. For example, ‘Unless otherwise agreed in writing, Sam will live with each of his parents as follows…”. This allows for flexibility and for the parents to depart from the Parenting Orders where they agree and do so in writing—whether over text or email.

Parenting Orders last until each child turns 18. They are very hard to get set aside (discharged) unless both parents agree or the parent wanting to change the Parenting Orders can show that there has ‘been a significant change in circumstances’ since the making of the Orders.

Being that Parenting Orders are Court Orders, if they are breached (“contravened”) then that is contempt of Court, a civil offence. The consequences can range from makeup time, requiring the contravening parent to do a parenting course, a fine or gaol. The appropriate way to deal with a breach of Parenting Orders is before the Court not the police, who cannot intervene and arrange for a child to be forced to go to contact with the other parent.

A Parenting Plan documents an agreement between parents about matters relating to their children—whether that be their aspirations for the children, how they will share parental responsibility and decision making, care arrangements for them, financial support for them and how the parents will communicate with one another. For a document to be a Parenting Plan, the agreement must be made in writing, signed and dated by the parents.

The biggest difference between a Parenting Plan and Parenting Orders is that Parenting Orders are binding and enforceable at Court and a Parenting Plan is not. A Parenting Plan evidences an agreement of an intention between parents about matters in relation to the children. It can be both a sword and a shield. There are no legal repercussions in terms of consequences by a Court for breaching a Parenting Plan.

Get in contact with us today to talk about the pros and cons in your situation of entering into a Parenting Plan or Parenting Orders.

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