After a divorce or separation, parents need to arrive at an understanding about how their children will be parented. If you come to an agreement, a Family Law Court can make those decisions for you by entering a parenting order.
If you can, it is better to make your own parenting agreement without involving the Family Law Court. Both parents will need to make compromises, but you save money and maintain control over the process if you make a parenting agreement. Most parents find that more satisfying than leaving their fate in the hands of a judge who does not know them.
Once you have settled on the terms of an agreement, you need to decide how you will document the agreement. This article will explain your choices.
Parents can agree upon how their children will be raised during their separation or divorce without putting anything in writing. Informal agreements have the advantage of flexibility (they are easily modified if circumstances change), but they are not enforceable.
It is generally better to have a formal written agreement. Written agreements help you avoid misunderstandings. They can also become the basis for an enforceable court order. A court order provides protection if one parent decides not to follow the agreement.
The easiest way to make your parenting agreement enforceable is to apply for a consent order. The Family Law Courts can provide you with an application or you can find one on the court’s website.
Attach your parenting agreement to the application and, if it is reasonable and complete, the court will enter an order that makes your agreement just as enforceable as a parenting order entered after a contested hearing.
A parenting plan is a written parenting agreement, signed by both parents, that addresses the following parenting issues;
how the plan will be changed if changes become necessary.
The Family Law Act encourages parents to negotiate a parenting plan and to use the courts to make decisions about their children as a last resort. If a parenting order has been entered, a parenting plan can be used to change the terms of the order unless the order prevents the parents from doing so.
Parenting plans are not enforceable in court unless they are incorporated into a consent order. A parenting plan can be regarded as evidence of the parents’ intentions if a parent applies for a parenting order.
The court will likely be guided by the parenting plan, provided that it is in the child’s best interests. To make a parenting plan enforceable, however, parents should obtain a consent order.