Deciding how children should be cared for and what responsibilities each parent will have after separation can be a source of frustration and hostility. However, when parents can agree on an arrangement between themselves, then there is no need to attend Court to make a decision for them.
There are three main options that separating parents can take in order to establish more concisely their arrangements for their shared children after separation.
An informal arrangement between two separating plans is exactly what the term appears to suggest. There is no written record of the arrangement and the arrangement is not legally binding. These sorts of arrangements will only work well if there is an unusual degree of cooperation between the two parents. The chance always exists that one or other of the parents changes their mind over any or all of the arrangements and the situation deteriorates to the detriment of the children. At this stage, a more formal arrangement should be considered.
A parenting plan is a written arrangement between the two parents which still has no legal significance. This doesn’t mean that it is invalid. It is a relatively easy arrangement to choose if the separation is reasonably amicable and the two parents can agree on the arrangement for their children. Basically, the plan sets out who is responsible for the children and what time is allocated to each child. Things like parental support should also be included. The plan is printed out with the dates and signatures of both parents on each copy.
Parenting plans have no legal basis and so if one of the parents decides that he or she no longer agrees with the plan, then the Court cannot enforce it. However, if the plan has become unworkable, the very fact that it was drawn up in the first place will be considered by the Court if the parental arrangements are brought before them.
Consent orders are legally binding arrangements or plans that have been filed with the court. They may be prepared with the help of a family lawyer or a Family Relationship Centre. These centres are located across New South Wales and are able to assist couples with parenting issues. Family Dispute Resolution, for instance, where assistance in the case of separating parent who cannot mutually agree on the arrangements for the care of their children after a separation or divorce, is available at these centres.
This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice