If you and your partner separate and you have responsibility obligations over dependent children, then you both should come to an official parenting agreement regarding the future arrangements of your children.
What is a parenting arrangement?
A Parenting Arrangement is a title given to the discussion and mutual parental agreement between separated parents or legal guardians around how your children will be looked after, now that you’re both apart.
Every family dynamic is unique, which is why there’s no one way to develop your Parenting Arrangement. This is why there are no strict guidelines about how parents or legal guardians should make an agreement to care for a child after a separation.
What is included in a parenting arrangement?
While there isn’t an official Parenting Arrangement template, it should include determining things like:
- who picks up which child on what day
- who has each child during school holidays
- where each child lives at certain times of the year
- who the children can spend time and communicate with
- medical issues
- cultural and religious practices
- how the parents will communicate or make changes and so on.
How does a parenting arrangement work?
Generally speaking, it’s usually best for everyone involved if separated parents come to an amicable agreement, with terms that are realistic and practical, and focus on the needs and the best interests of each child.
How do you put parenting arrangements in place?
When arrangements for children are agreed upon between the separated parents, they can be put in place in one of three ways:
A Verbal Agreement
Some couples simply discuss how to implement their agreed parenting care arrangements for their children without putting the parenting agreement into writing.
A benefit of a verbal parenting agreement for the children’s ongoing care is that it offers a lot of convenience and flexibility for parents, as they can simply plan on an ongoing basis and discuss changes as needed.
However, the disadvantage is that a verbal parenting agreement is not recorded, which can lead to potential misunderstandings around times and dates. Verbal parenting agreements also cannot be legally enforced and can have potential problems if the parents are unable to communicate effectively or a dispute arises.
A Parenting Plan is when parents discuss their verbal parenting agreement and then put the details into a written and signed document.
A disadvantage of formalising a parenting care arrangement using this method is that a Parenting Plan is not legally recognised and enforceable by a Court.
It does, however, provide the parents with clarity and shows their intentions as to the agreed arrangements. It also allows for some flexibility as the Parenting Plan document can be edited if agreed on between the parents.
A Consent Order is a parenting agreement plan that is signed by the parents and sent to the Court. If the Court considers the parenting agreement to be practical and in the best interests of the children, the agreement will become a legally recognised parenting order, also known as a Consent Order.
Neither parent is required to go to Court for the orders to be made. The paperwork needs to be submitted according to the instructions provided by your local Family Court.
A Consent Order is enforceable by the Court, which means that if a parent does not comply with the order, they run the risk of the Court issuing them with a fine, punishment or even imprisonment.
A Consent Order is usually drafted in a way that includes a provision for parents to change the terms of the agreement as they wish through dispute resolution. However, any changes must be agreed upon, otherwise you will need to apply to the Court for the orders to be changed.
If in doubt, seek legal advice about making agreements for the arrangements for children.