What is a Consent Order, What is a Parenting Plan and Which Is Right for Your Family?

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Families going through a divorce have many important issues to sort, like who gets the dog in a breakup and what to include in their property settlement agreement. One of the most important things to decide is whether parents feel they can work together to create and agree to a Parenting Plan, or if they will need the full force of the court via a Consent Order to determine the daily living arrangements for raising their children.

There are several differences that must be taken into account when deciding between a Parenting Plan or seeking a Consent Order from the court. In this article, we’ll answer the following questions so you can make the right choice:

  • What is a Consent Order?
  • What is a Parenting Plan?

What is a Consent Order? Picture of a legal document with a gavel resting on top
Image source: Tiffen & Co

What is a Parenting Plan?

If parents are able to communicate respectfully and clearly with one another to reach an agreement about the needs of their children, it’s very possible that a Parenting Plan is a good option.

So, what is a Parenting Plan? A Parenting Plan allows parents greater leeway in making immediate decisions and more flexibility for addressing their children’s future needs. It is important to keep the following in mind when choosing to engage in a Parenting Plan:

  • Parenting plans are not legally binding.
  • These plans do allow for changes to be made without the assistance of the court.
  • All changes must be agreed upon by both parents.
  • Parenting plans must be signed by both parties.

In addition, these mutually agreed parenting arrangements can save both parties a great deal of money as they don’t require the courts. If required, a third party can be present to assist them in creating a Parenting Plan that will work for the parents and in the best interest of the children. Oftentimes, a mediator or a counsellor can be of great help in drafting a Parenting Plan that works well for everyone.

What to include in a Parenting Plan

  1. The daily schedule of the children including school hours, summer and holiday breaks, extracurricular activities and weekend time.
  2. Financial arrangements, including tuition, books, transportation, living expenses, medical needs, sport participation fees and the cost of other incidentals such as music/art lessons.
  3. An actual accounting of time spent with both parents, including how time will be shared on a daily, weekend, summer and holiday basis.
  4. The transportation of children between parental homes.
  5. Attendance at school and extracurricular events.
  6. Any travel parameters for either parent taking the children on a holiday.
  7. Religious considerations.

Most importantly, when creating a Parenting Plan, great consideration should be given to the children’s needs. Changes should only be made when they are absolutely necessary and fair to everyone. That covers what is a Parenting Plan.


What is a parenting plan? Picture of parenting document with fountain pen resting on top
Image source: Chad Pinkerton

However, there are instances where parents cannot agree on how to co-parent their children. Some parents find it difficult to come to a consensus on daily schedules, summer and holiday times and sharing the financial cost of continuing to raise their children. In these instances, it might be more sensible for parents to request a Consent Order.

What is a Consent Order?

So, what is a Consent Order? A Consent Order has the following characteristics:

  1. It is a legally binding document which is enforceable by the court.
  2. It is created with parental input by a family court judge.
  3. It cannot be changed unless there is a showing of a significant change in circumstances.
  4. Parents must make an application for a Consent Order.
  5. Requires the signature of both parents.

Applying for a Consent Order is a bit more complicated and, as such, it is recommended that parents consult with a divorce or separation lawyer for assistance in preparing their paperwork.

What to include in a Consent Order

The paperwork will include giving information to the court about:

  • The daily needs of the children;
  • The living conditions, specifying what both parents are able to provide;
  • The financials of both parents;
  • The financial needs of the children;
  • The requests of both parents regarding shared time for weekdays, weekends, and summer and holiday times, as well as attendance at school, extracurricular functions and travel over school breaks and summer vacations.

When asking for a Consent Order it is very important to remember that it is highly unlikely that either parent will get every concession they are requesting from the court. Instead, the power to determine the compromises and content of the Order will be held with the presiding judge. Therefore, parents will give up the right to control the final outcome of their children’s needs. Instead, the best interests of the child will be left to the discretion of the family court judge reviewing the application and drafting the Order.

Upon completion of the Order, parents will be asked to sign the agreement and the Order will become a legally binding document that will be enforceable by law.

What is a Consent Order at its core? Essentially, it’s a court order and as such it can be of great benefit to parents who are concerned that their ex-spouse or partner might not willingly comply with a Parenting Plan. The use of a Consent Order can bring peace of mind to both parents in knowing that each is bound by the findings and decisions of the family court judge.

Regardless of whether you’re married or in a de facto relationship, if you find yourself in need of assistance, Owen Hodge Lawyers has some of the most skilled family lawyers Sydney has to offer.  If you need help with this or any other legal issue, please contact us to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs.

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