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What are Parenting Plans?
Parenting Plans are informal and non-legal agreements about custody of children. Parenting plans are written agreements about the future care, living arrangements, child support or other issues that concern children when their parents separate or divorce.
What can I include in the parenting plan?
Parenting plans are specific to each child and their parents circumstances.
They can include agreements about:
– where a child lives;
– the time a child spends with the other parent or persons;
– long-term decision making;
– communication a child has with the other parent or person;
– child support;
– how disputes will be resolved.
Can I change or vary a parenting plan?
Parenting plans can be changed or varied if you and your ex reach later agreements.
To vary the an existing parenting plan speak to your ex about the changes you want to and document the changes in an updated parenting plan.
Is a parenting plan binding?
A parenting plan is not legally binding.
Parenting plans can be formalised by a court, where they become legally binding orders.
In some situations parents may agree to a parenting plan but later do not agree with its terms.
In those circumstances, a parenting plan (although not legally binding) will be considered by a court if they are in the best interests of children.
General Information – Parenting Plans
Under the Family Law Act parenting plans are recognised by the court if they are in writing, made between the parents of the child and are signed and dated by both parents. A parenting plan must be made without pressure or duress or coercion by any parent or person.
Parenting plans are flexible and can accommodate changes as children grow or circumstances change. You can include any one or more of the following in your parenting plan:
» where the child will live.
» how often the child will spend time with the other parent or other people.
» how long-term decisions will be made about children’s education, health or religion.
» international and interstate travel.
» child support or maintenance.
» extra-curricular activities for the children.
Although parenting plans are individual and different for each child and parents, it is important that the parenting arrangements you agree upon are made in the best interests of the children. This means that the children must be the focus of the parenting plans and must be able to have meaningful and connected relationships with each parent and their extended families.
Equal time arrangements
You and your ex-partner can agree to equal time arrangements for the children in your parenting plan, but it is important that this equal time arrangement is in the children’s best interest and can work for you, the children and the other parent.
Equal time parenting arrangements require that you and the other parent communicate with respect and regard. You should also consider the practical considerations, such as how far you live from each other and the costs of transportation and travel time.
Equal time arrangements are beneficial for children, where parents trust each other, and each have a relatively equal standard of living. A high level of co-operation is required between the parents. Equal time arrangements are generally not suitable where there is high conflict or long-term conflict that is not resolved.
Changing parenting plans
As parenting plans are not legally binding and have not been made by the court, they are easy to change and update as long as both you and the other parent agree. Where children are babies having a parenting, plan is an advantage because you and the other parent can change parenting arrangements as the child grows and their needs change.
Starting a new relationship
If you are ready to start a new relationship, you don’t have to tell your ex-partner. However, if you intend to live with your new partner and the children then this can be something that is covered in your parenting plan.