What Do You Need to Know About Parenting Arrangements After Separation or Divorce?

Updated: Jun 24


Photo Courtesy: Steven Libralon collected from Unsplash


If you are going through a divorce or separation, it is a very stressful event for you and everyone involved. It is especially difficult for your child/ren because of the personal nature of the conflict. At this challenging time, your child/ren need support, love and as much certainty as possible. A written parenting plan, worked out and agreed between parents, will help clarify the arrangements you need to put in place to care for your child/ren.


The parenting plan can include-

  • shared parental responsibility for major long-term decision making and

  • the time children spend with each parent.

It will also provide the much-needed certainty to everyone involved and help them to clearly understand what is expected of them. A well thought out parenting plan will be a valuable reference for future arrangements for long-term care of your children.


If you and your former partner agree on the future arrangements for your child/ren, after separation, you do not have to go to court. You can-

  • make a parenting plan, or

  • obtain consent orders approved by a court.

You should also seek legal advice when considering which approach is best for you.



1. What is a parenting plan?


A parenting plan is a written agreement, between the separating parents, that sets out parenting arrangements for the child/ren. A parenting plan should always put the best interests of the child first. It is a written agreement between parents covering practical issues of parental responsibility. It is drawn up in goodwill with a shared commitment to your children and their future in mind.


Your parenting plan should address practical issues about your children’s care like:

  • parenting style

  • living arrangements

  • finances

  • religion

  • medical treatment



2. What is the legal status of a parenting plan?


A parenting plan is not legally enforceable. However, it can have legal implications.

Unless a court orders otherwise, you and your former partner can agree to change a parenting order by entering into a parenting plan. The Family Law Act sets out details about parenting plans in Sections 63C, 64D, 65DA and 70NBB.


To be a valid parenting plan under the Family Law Act, the plan must be made free from any threat, duress or coercion. It must also 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 your children, you may need to apply to the Family Court to decide and issue a parenting order. In deciding parenting arrangements, the court must always consider-

  • the best interests of the child, and

  • the extent to which both parents have complied with their obligations in relation to the child, which may include those set out in a parenting plan (if any).

Parenting orders are a form of a consent order issued by the court.




3. What are the important things to consider while making a parenting agreement?


While making a parenting agreement, as a parent, you should consider a wide range of things including the following:

  • the age of the child,

  • who is best placed to provide their day-to-day care of the child,

  • special needs the child may have e.g., medical condition and schooling,

  • educational needs of the child,

  • practical considerations e.g., accommodation, transport and expenses,

  • the cultural needs of the child,

  • the child’s will, and

  • the safety of the child.

As children grow, and their needs change, parents should be ready to update their parenting agreement to suit the changing circumstances.




4. What are consent orders?


A consent order is a written agreement between the separated partners or parents or carers that is approved by a court. A consent order can cover parenting arrangements for children as well as financial arrangements such as property and maintenance. Any person concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child can apply for parenting orders.


Consent orders have the same legal effect as if they had been made by a judge after a court hearing. The court must be satisfied before granting the order that the orders you ask for are in the best interest of the child.




5. What is a parenting order?


If parents or carers fail to agree on arrangements for the care of children, and family dispute resolution has not worked or is not appropriate, then they can apply to a family law court for a parenting order.


A parenting order is a court order determining who will have the responsibilities for children. A parenting order can cover:

  • who the children will live with,

  • who and how the children will spend time and communicate with,

  • any other issues relevant to the care of the children, such as schooling or medical treatment.


Parenting orders can also include the process to be used to sort out disagreements about the order at a later stage. In cases, where there are more than two people sharing parental responsibility, a parenting order can include how they will communicate with each other.


Parenting orders can be made:

  • through the court by 'consent' (where you both agree)

  • by the court after a trial or hearing.

When negotiating arrangements for children, or asking a court for a parenting order, it is important to make sure that what you are asking for is workable.



If you need more information about you options of parenting arrangements or need to find a lawyer to get legal advice on your parenting arrangements please visit us on www.lawcircuit.com.au or call us on +61418631798 or email us at bonhi@lawcircuit.com.au




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