If you have recently separated or have been struggling through the complexities of co-parenting for a while, you may not be familiar with the powers of a parenting plan. We asked Stephanie Murray of Richardson Murray Law in Broadbeach to explain exactly what they are, and how they can benefit you – provided you approach them correctly.
“A parenting plan is a written agreement entered into between two parents setting out the arrangements for the care, responsibilities and decision making for the children,” says Stephanie. “A parenting plan will generally include all the specific care arrangements for the children for school days, weekend days and school holidays.
“We recommend parenting plans are extended to include the arrangements for special occasions so that the children can partake in the special family times in your lives.”
A parenting plan can also deal with procedural matters. This may include how your children will transition from house to house, how they will communicate with the other parent while not in their care, who will take them to their activities, what happens if they are sick or in an emergent situation and how you and your former partner will make long term decisions for the children.
A parenting plan pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) requires the Parenting Plan to be:
- In writing;
- Signed by both parents of the child;
- Dated; and
- Free from any duress or unreasonable pressure to the other parent.
“To vary the parenting plan, the parents simply need to agree in writing to vary the original plan,” says Stephanie.
So, you have a parenting plan. But is it binding on the other parent?
“The short answer is that a parenting plan is not legally enforceable,” says Stephanie. “In order for children’s arrangements to be enforceable they must be reflected in a parenting order made by the court.”
This can be done by way of consent of both parents based on your parenting plan, through filing an application for consent orders, or by making an application to the court for a judge to determine the parenting arrangements for children.
“If you do have a signed parenting plan and you end up in the court at a later date arguing over the arrangements for the children, the court will consider in the first instance, the terms of the parenting plan as evidence of what the parties had previously agreed was appropriate and in the best interests of the children,” says Stephanie.
If you need help to develop a parenting plan, or parenting matters in general please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie Murray of Richardson Murray for assistance.