A consent order is essentially when you and your ex-partner agree about arrangements for your children, and apply to the Court for an order to be made by agreement. In most cases, you are not required to attend court for Consent Orders.
Consent Orders set out what both parents must do, and have the same force and legal effect as if you had gone to court, and a Judge had made a decision after a hearing had taken place. In some special circumstances, consent orders have been made between grandparents, and other relatives, concerning children who are related to them. Some examples of consent orders, which can be adapted to suit your own circumstances include parental responsibility, telephone/email/skype communication, travel costs, children’s activities and medical issues.
On the other hand, if yourself and the other parent agree about parenting matters, a parenting plan can be drafted, rather than going through the process of applying for a consent order. A parenting plan is essentially a less formal way of agreeing in writing about the arrangements for your child, or children. This can be set out on any sort of paper, there is no set form, and it does not get filed in a court, due to it being a less formal process. The contents of a parenting plan can be short and sweet, or descriptive/detailed. Furthermore, it can be written in plain English, without the use of legal jargon, as long as the agreement that is set out is clear between the parties. It is crucial to note that a parenting plan can only be made so long as it is free from threat, duress or coercion, and must be signed and dated by all parties involved in the making of the plan.
What is the difference between the two?
The main difference between the two is that a parenting plan isn’t legally binding, whereas Consent Orders are. However, the informality of the parenting plan does mean that if your ex-partner who you made the plan with does break the conditions set out, you are limited with what action you can take against them. You are within your rights to take them to court, however, the Court may then implement orders concerning your children that you did not like as much as the original parenting plan.
It is also important to note that a parenting plan that has been signed after a consent order may override it. In essence, this means that if the parenting plan is different to the consent order, then you cannot rely on the consent order, or complain that the consent order has been broken.
Therefore, you must be careful if you wish to sign a parenting plan after originally making a consent order. We advise that you always get advice from a lawyer before you sign any documents.
How do I know which one is right for my situation?
It is evident that both consent orders and parenting plans have their strengths and weaknesses. It is important to remember that whilst a parenting plan avoids the whole court process, in order to ensure you get the terms and conditions you want included in the order, it is important for the process to be formal and to have a lawyer present for advice.
For further advice on consent orders or parenting plans, get in touch with one of our lawyers at Cairns Divorce Lawyers.