Consent Orders vs Parenting Plans

How do Consent Orders Compare to Parenting Plans?

By cropped movement legal

· Read time: 4 minutes

The distinction between Consent Orders and a Parenting Plan lies in their respective processes and enforceability. Parenting Plans are crafted through direct discussions and agreement between the involved parties, independent of the court system. In contrast, Consent Orders fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit and Family Court (FCFOA) and may be enforced by the court if the orders are not adhered to.

Consent Orders and Parenting Plans are common ways to managed parenting arrangements following a separation.

Deciding which is suitable for your circumstances will depend on

What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement between separated or divorced parents about how they will parent their children. 

The plan can cover a range of issues, including where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and how they will communicate with each parent.

A parenting plan can be created by the parents themselves, or with the help of a mediator or family dispute resolution practitioner. It’s important to note that a parenting plan is not legally binding, but rather serves as a guide for how the parents will co-parent.

What is a Consent Order?

A consent order is a legally binding agreement between separated or divorced parents about parenting arrangements. 

The order can cover similar issues to a parenting plan, including where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and how they will communicate with each parent.

To obtain a consent order, the parents must agree on the terms of the order and submit the agreement to the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. 

Once the court approves the order, it becomes legally binding and enforceable.

Parenting PlanConsent Order
Legally BindingNoYes
Approval RequiredNoYes
Enforceable by CourtNoYes
CustomizationFlexibleFlexible
Legal RepresentationNot RequiredOptional
Filing FeesVariableYes
Legal RequirementsNoneMust meet requirements set by law and courts
ChangesCan be updatedCan be updated in certain circumstances, requires court approval
Mediation RequirementNoNo
Time to ResolutionVaries4-6 months on average
Complexity of ProcessSimpleCan be complex
PrivacyHighLow
This table provides an overview of some of the key differences between parenting plans and consent orders. While both can be effective ways for separated or divorced parents to make agreements about parenting arrangements, there are important differences in their legal status, approval process, enforceability, and other factors that should be taken into account when choosing the appropriate option for your family.

Are Parenting Plans Legally Binding?

No, a parenting plan is not legally binding. However, if both parents have agreed to the terms of the plan and are following it, a court may take this into account if a dispute arises in the future.

FAQs

Do Parenting Plans or Consent Orders need to be approved by the Court?

No, a parenting plan does not need to be approved by the court. However, if the parents cannot agree on the terms of a parenting plan, they may need to seek the court’s assistance in making parenting arrangements.

On the other hand, a consent order must be approved by the court to be legally binding. The court will review the agreement to ensure that it is in the best interests of the children and meets all legal requirements.

What are the differences in fees?

The fees for a parenting plan will vary depending on whether the parents choose to use a mediator or family dispute resolution practitioner. If the parents are able to reach an agreement themselves, there may be no fees associated with creating a parenting plan.

For a consent order, there are filing fees associated with submitting the agreement to the court. The fees will vary depending on the court and the complexity of the case.

Are both legally enforceable?

No, a parenting plan is not legally enforceable. However, if a parent is not following the terms of the plan, the other parent may seek a court order to enforce the plan or vary the plan.

A consent order, on the other hand, is legally enforceable. If a parent is not following the terms of the order, the other parent may seek enforcement or variation of the order through the court.

Can a Consent Order be Changed Once Obtained?

Yes, a consent order can be changed if there is a significant change in circumstances that affects the children. To change a consent order, the parents must agree on the changes and submit a new agreement to the court for approval.

In some cases, one parent may seek to change a consent order without the agreement of the other parent. 

In this situation, the parent must apply to the court for a variation of the order, and the court will consider whether the proposed changes are in the best interests of the children.

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