Quite often, parents will reach an agreement for the care arrangements for their children, without the need to go to Court.
If you and your former spouse reach an agreement regarding the arrangements for your children and you would like that put in writing so the arrangements are clear for both parents, you might consider:
- A Parenting Plan; or
- A Form 11 Application for Consent Orders (“Form 11”) and a Minute, which will become Court Orders.
A Parenting Plan is more informal than Court Orders and sets out how parents will care for the children of their relationship. A Parenting Plan is usually entered into after parties have been to mediation or have come to an amicable agreement about how they will parent their children.
Parenting Plans provide parents with more flexibility than Court Orders as they can set out arrangements in relation to children, over which the Court has no power. For example, as parents, you may agree upon how your children are introduced to a new partner in the future and when that might occur.
A Parenting Plan should be signed by both parents as a sign of their intention and shared commitment to follow the agreement they have reached. If one parent decides not to follow the Parenting Plan, there are no consequences as a Parenting Plan is not a binding document. A Parenting Plan does, however, evidence the intentions of the parties, should it become necessary for a parent to engage a family lawyer or initiate Court proceedings in the future.
Court Orders on the other hand, are binding on parents and must be adhered to strictly. If one parent does not follow Court Orders, then the other parent is able to commence Court proceedings to enforce the Orders.
Whilst Court Orders provide certainty to parents about the care arrangements for their children, they are not “final”. If there is a significant change of circumstances or a sufficient passage of time has passed since the Court Orders were made, one parent may choose to ask the Court to change the Orders.
An example of what the Court considers to be a significant change in circumstances is one parent needing to relocate for work purposes (of themselves or a new partner).
If you need advice in relation to formalising care arrangements for your children, please contact us to make an appointment to explore the options available to you.