Differences between Parenting Plans and Consent Orders

When parents in Australia determine that separation or divorce are the only suitable options for their family, one of the primary concerns is managing their parental rights and responsibilities. Maintaining a safe, healthy family dynamic is crucial to post-divorce success, and the overall wellbeing of the children involved. There are several ways that parents can ensure that their family is protected and remains on a positive, healthy trajectory. Two of the most common elements that arise in divorce cases are parenting plans and consent orders.

What are Parenting Plans and Consent Orders?

In order to determine what option is best, or even applicable, to your family situation, it is important to understand what each element does.

Parenting Plans – Parenting plans establish guidelines for families separating or divorcing. Common elements included in parenting plans include:

  • Living Arrangements
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Finances
  • Religion
  • Emotional Support

Parenting plans are not inherently considered legally enforceable, but they are carefully regarded in family law matters. For example, the Family law Act mandates that parenting plans must be agreed upon by both parties without duress or coercion. Additionally, the parenting plan must then be submitted to the Family Court to be included in a Parenting Order, which is legally enforceable. If both parents cannot agree on the terms of a parenting plan, the Family Court will establish a plan based on the best interests of the child, and reasonable accommodation to the needs of each parent.

Consent Orders – Consent orders are less formal than parenting plans, and do not include as many factors, such as finances or child support. Consent orders are the most common way for separating or divorcing parents to reach an agreement, though the less detailed nature of consent orders are not applicable to every case. Consent orders include the following elements:

  • Living Arrangements
  • Education
  • Visitation (holidays, birthdays, etc.)
  • Communication Methods for Each Parent
  • Travel Arrangements

Consent orders are legally enforceable, and are filed with the Family Court as a formal Order. This means that if one parent fails to uphold the terms of the consent order, the other parent can request the court to enforce the order, which could result in consequences. A consent order is a preferred option for families where one parent is concerned that the other will refuse to return the child after visitation or in cases where the parents cannot agree.

Which Option is best for your Family?

While parenting plans and consent orders offer similar protection, there is one striking difference. That difference is the fact that parenting plans are discussed and agreed to outside of the court system. Conversely, consent orders are managed by the Family Court, and can be decided by the court if parents cannot agree. Determining which option is best for your situation may be difficult, and may benefit from the guidance of a skilled family law professional.

Every separation or divorce case is as unique as the family it represents. There is no standard or “cookie-cutter” form to ensure that your family’s needs are met. At Owen Hodge Lawyers, we understand the delicate nature of parenting plans and consent orders, and we will work hard to meet the needs of your family. Our team of lawyers is dedicated to reviewing your case and offering tailored guidance on the options that best protect your rights, and enforce the parental responsibilities of each party. We are skilled at managing negotiations outside of the court, but are prepared to represent you should your case be required to be heard in Family Court.

Get the Help you Need

Owen Hodge Family Lawyers offers comprehensive services designed to support and meet the needs of any family. Call us today at 1800 770 780 or contact us via email at ohl@owenhodge.com.au to schedule a consultation with our team of family lawyers. We look forward to assisting you.