Deciding to go your separate ways is never easy but when there are children involved, it’s really tough.
Who will your children live with and how much time will you both get to spend with them?
It’s a hard call.
We understand that this can be an incredibly emotional and draining time. That said, if you can reach an agreement with your partner over your children’s living arrangements, you can avoid the need to go to court and save yourself time and money.
It’s always best to document any agreement you make with your ex-partner and there are two ways of doing this – with a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order.
To help you make an informed decision, carry on reading to learn the difference between the two.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a voluntary agreement between you and your ex-partner that is written down and signed by both of you. It should address all aspects of your children’s care, welfare, and development, and contain the following information:
- Who your children will live with
- Time spent with the other parent
- Practical considerations relating to your children’s day-to-day living
- How you will both liaise on major long-term issues affecting your children
A Parenting Plan is a useful option and provided you and your ex remain on speaking terms, it allows for flexibility.
Should your family circumstances change, for instance, or as your children get older, the existing Parenting Plan can be replaced with an updated version provided both parents are in agreement.
Furthermore, unlike a Consent Order, a Parenting Plan can contain provision for support and maintenance.
However, do remember that a Parenting Plan is not a legally binding document. Therefore, if court proceedings are required at a later date, the judge will make a call based on what he or she considers to be in the best interests of your children. So while the Parenting Plan will be given consideration by the court, it might not always result in the desired outcome.
So now you know about Parenting Plans, let’s take a look at Consent Orders and what’s involved.
What is a Consent Order?
A Consent Order contains similar information to that of a Parenting Plan and also has to be signed by both parents.
The main difference between this and a Parenting Order is that once the Consent Order has been signed by both parties and approved by the Court, it becomes a legally enforceable document. Consequently, it’s very difficult to make any changes unless your circumstances have changed significantly.
In addition, should it be found that a parent has contravened a Court Order without having reasonable grounds to do so, certain penalties may be applied. These can range from compensating the other parent for time lost with their children, to having a prison sentence imposed.
Which is the best option?
It’s hard to determine what the best option is since each case is different and depends on the individuals and their particular family circumstances.
Pros and Cons
A Parenting Plan is best suited to separated parents that remain amicable and able to discuss matters relating to their children quite freely. It’s also a good option for couples wanting some structure in their co-parenting agreement.
Consent Orders, on the other hand, may be considered a preferred option if you don’t trust one another to comply with the agreement. Not only is a Consent Order a long-term legally binding parenting agreement, but it also acts as a deterrent to anyone who might otherwise consider breaking the rules. Moreover, it provides the means for enforcement and penalisation.
You should note that a fee of $165 will be incurred when filing for an application for a Consent Order with a court.
Children should come first
When faced with the choice between a Parenting Plan and a Consent Order, your children’s best interests should always be your main concern. By drawing up your own guidelines and expectations rather than leaving a court to make that decision on your behalf, you’ll both be satisfied that any terms outlined are the best they can be for your given family circumstances.
If you need any further help in understanding the difference between a Parenting Plan and a Consent Order or need expert advice tailored to your circumstances, then please don’t hesitate to contact our Family Lawyers at Strategic Lawyers in Townsville.