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The Difference Between Parenting Plans and Consent Orders

The Difference Between Parenting Plans and Consent Orders

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written and signed voluntary agreement between parties. A parenting plan under the Family Law Act 1975 must deal with matters relating to the aspects of the care, welfare and development of a child, including :

  • Who the child/children will live with;
  • Time the child/children spend with the other parent;
  • How parents are to communicate on major long-term issues relating to the child/children and;
  • The practical considerations of a child’s day-to-day life

Parenting plans are flexible as written agreements by both parties can change them.

The disadvantage of parenting plans is that they are not legally binding. If one party does not uphold their side of the agreement, there are no immediate mechanisms to enforce the Court’s plan.

If court proceedings are commenced later, the court must consider the parenting plan. However, the Court is not bound by the parenting plan terms, and it is available for the court to make orders in accordance with the child’s best interests.

Should you enter into a parenting plan?

Parents may consider entering into a parenting plan where:-

  • They can communicate about issues concerning the child/children.
  • They want structure to their co-parenting arrangement.
  • They need flexibility in making arrangements for very children whose needs and capacity to spend time away from their primary parent are changing with their milestones.

Should I make an Application for Consent Orders?

When parties are able to agree and reach an agreement, they can file an Application for Consent Orders with the Court. A Registrar will review the proposed orders and if in the child’s best interests, will become Court Orders.

Court Orders are legally enforceable. Certain penalties may be applied if a court finds a party has breached the Order without a reasonable excuse.

Consent Orders may be preferable where there is a possibility that a party may not follow the agreement.

Which option is best for me?

It is always preferable that parties attempt to reach an agreement between themselves when possible. If this is successful, parties should consider whether they need to have their agreement made enforceable by the Court.

It depends on the individual parties, their personal circumstances and their children as to which of these options is the right one.

If you would like further advice on negotiating an agreement or drafting consent orders, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our family lawyers in Rockhampton at South Geldard Lawyers on (07) 4936 9100.


It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.