What Is A Parenting Plan & Do I Need One?

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If you are a parent and your relationship has broken down, one of the best things you can do moving forward is to set up a parenting plan.

Separations are often acrimonious and full of tension, but when children are involved it is important to prioritise their best interests and try to avoid conflict with the other parent.

Putting a parenting plan in place is one way to help remove difficulties and disagreements from future communications with the other parent. Read on to learn more about what a parenting plan is and if you need one.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan outlines the agreed practices and a timetable for separated parents. Parenting plans are useful tools to help children to feel more supported and secure about their futures and help with building a routine.

Is a parenting plan necessary?

A parenting plan may be necessary if you believe that you could run into difficulties co-parenting with your ex. Even if you have an amicable relationship with your ex you may find it useful to put a parenting plan into place, as it can help you navigate some of the trickier areas of parenting.

How can I start drafting a parenting plan?

Getting your parenting plan started is as simple as coming to an agreement with the other parent about any scheduling or life arrangements related to your child/ren. You do not need to write the plan down, however, it is advisable to affirm its validity so you can continue to refer to it in the future.

A helpful way to begin is with each parent expressing their desired plans and then reconvening to check for consistencies or any overlaps that you may need to negotiate.

Formal registration of the plan is not required, but in line with s63C(1) of the Family Law Act 1975, a parenting plan will be deemed valid if it is:

  • made in writing;
  • is or was made between both parents of the child/ren;
  • has been signed by the parents of the child/ren; and
  • has been dated.

What should I do if the other parent doesn’t agree with what has been prepared or refuses a parenting plan altogether?

If one of the parties is reluctant to agree to a parenting plan it would be prudent to seek the assistance of a neutral and professional third party, such as a mediator/dispute resolution practitioner, counsellor or both parties’ lawyers who can help you both to navigate the process.

Is my parenting plan legally enforceable?

Generally speaking, parenting plans are not legally enforceable in the sense that if one party fails to meet an aspect of the plan, they cannot be punished or have action brought against them in court. However, in some cases, a valid parenting plan will override previous court orders.

In other cases, the court may allow the parenting plan to be varied by other existing court orders to:

  • protect the child from harm (such as exposure to family violence, abuse or neglect) or
  • ensure that one parent is not coerced into agreeing to a parenting plan. A parenting plan is not valid if one party was forced to agree to it.

What if I want to terminate the parenting plan?

A parenting plan can be changed or terminated at any time if both parents agree. Termination should be confirmed via a separate, written document.

If you are struggling to create a parenting plan on your own, would like to pursue mediation or want to better understand your rights as a parent, our family lawyers can assist.

At Cairns Divorce Lawyers you will always speak to a Lawyer