The advent of the Family Law Act 1975 has made it possible for parents to enter into an agreement concerning their parental powers and responsibilities. Under common law such an agreement would be prohibited for being against public policy.
However, contrary to common law, Section 63 B of the Family Law Act 1975 encourages parties to enter into a parenting plan (formerly known as child agreement) with the child’s best interest as the paramount consideration. Section 63 B also encourages parties to resolve the parental conflict and regard the legal system only as a last resort rather than a first resort.
In order for a parenting plan to be valid, it must be written, dated and signed by the parties without duress, threat or coercion. It can include the following matters:
Another way to formalize parenting arrangements is through a consent order which is filed in court unlike a parenting plan. Since it is filed in court, a consent order is legally binding while a parental plan is not legally enforceable upon the parties. This is because the ability to register a parenting plan was repealed by the Family Law Act Amendment 2003. The requirements of registration and signatures of lawyers to the parenting plan thereby making the process formal were deemed too onerous upon the parties.