Got kids? You need a parenting plan

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan can take any form, but it must be made free from any threat or coercion. It must be in writing and signed and dated by both parents.

If both parents agree on arrangements, you can submit your parenting plan to the Court using the Court’s Application for Consent Orders form. The details of your parenting plan are then built into a Parenting Order, giving it the same legal effect as an order made after a Court hearing.

If you cannot agree on arrangements for children you may need to have the Family Court decide and issue you a Parenting Order. In deciding parenting arrangements the Court will consider:

  • the best interests of the child

  • the extent to which both parents have complied with their obligations in relation to parenting.

So why do we need one?

Separation is usually a challenge for children and for the transition to be as smooth as possible they need contact with both parents. Some certainty about the future helps. A written parenting plan, worked out between parents, will help clarify the arrangements you need to put in place to care for your children. The Plan can include shared responsibility for major long-term decision making and the time children spend with each parent. It will help everyone involved to know what is expected of them and it will be a valuable reference as time passes and circumstances change.

What is and isn’t in a parenting plan?


Your plan can specify decisions about children’s care including living arrangements , finances and factors such as parenting style, communication and religion. A parenting plan does not cover how you intend to divide up your cash, homes and assets.

Communication with your ex

This is one of the most difficult challenges for a couple . . . and setting rules in a parenting planning plan can help. Think about addressing the following in your Plan:

  • Living arrangements – where are the kids going to live and what are their arrangements when they are with each parent? Do they have a bedroom? Where will they do homework? Who else is living in the house?

  • Methods – Is it better to discuss matters in a regular meeting, by telephone, text message, email or something else? Use what has worked best in the past or try something new.

  • Guidelines for respectful communication – when is it ok to call each other and when is it not?

  • What is ok if one of you has to change contact arrangements due to sickness or work commitments?

  • Major decisions – such as shifting house or moving schools – affect your children greatly. The arrival of a new partner is another important adjustment for the children. You may agree to discuss these major decisions together before you finalise them. This may include making or changing wills and providing for guardianship in the case of death.

  • Extra curricular activities – who is responsible for taking the kids to dance classes, sport or tutoring? What can you enrol them in and who is going to pay?

The law

If you cannot agree on arrangements for children you may need to have the Family Court decide and issue a Parenting Order. In deciding parenting arrangements the Court will always consider the best interests of the child. Suddenly you and your ex are no longer deciding the future of your children – do you want some judge and some lawyers to decide this for you??

Get a good mediatior, get sensible legal advice and think carefully before making big decisions.

Your kids will always have two parents.


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