What is a Parenting Plan?

Parenting Plan

By cropped movement legal

· Read time: 6 minutes

A Parenting Plan is a written document used by separated parents that defines key aspects of how a child will be raised.

A Parenting Plan will determine issues such as when and with whom the child will spend time with, how key decisions will be made, and other practicalities concerning their everyday life. 

A typical Parenting Plan will cover issues such as:

  • Which parent the children will spend time with on weekends, and holidays.
  • What religious upbringing the child will receive.
  • What notice needs to be given between the parents if a weekend trip is proposed.
  • Which parent will take the child to school.
  • Etc

A Parenting Plan is a critical document in co-parenting after separation and divorce, and provides a clear framework that both parents have agreed to.

What are Parenting Orders?

Parenting Plans are different to Parenting Orders

Parenting Orders are also concerned with the same aspects as a Parenting Plan, namely the daily practicalities of co-parenting: who the child will live with, spend time with, and how major decisions about their upbringing will be made.  

What is the Difference Between a Parenting Plan and a Parenting Order?

However the crucial difference is that they are ordered by the Court, and have legal standing as Court orders that must be followed. 

A Parenting Plan isn’t legally enforceable. 

Parenting Plans are usually used when parents can come to agreement about how their children’s lives should be arranged.

Parenting Orders are made on the basis of the intervention of the Courts, and usually come when parents having been unable to come to a decision, have been compelled to seek a decision made by the Courts.

What are Consent Orders?

Consent Orders are another term you may have heard used in this context. Consent Orders in relation to parenting issues, are the same as Parenting Orders. 

What Should be Considered When Making a Parenting Plan?

Creating a parenting plan requires thoughtful consideration of various factors to ensure the best interests of the child are upheld, and that they are practical on a day to day basis. 

Here are some crucial considerations:

How Practical Are the Proposed Arrangements?

When developing a parenting plan, it’s essential to think about the practicality of the proposed arrangements. Consider the logistics of daily life, such as transportation, school schedules, extracurricular activities, and healthcare needs. Ensure that the plan is feasible and sustainable for both parents, whilst also being flexible in particular circumstances if necessary.

Factor in Parents’ Work Schedules, Travel Distances, and the Child’s Timetable

Work schedules and travel distances can significantly impact parenting arrangements. Take into account each parent’s work hours, travel time to and from each other’s residences, and the child’s daily schedule. 

Location of School and Any Special Needs

The location of the child’s school is a crucial factor to consider. It’s generally in the child’s best interest to attend the same school unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

Additionally, if the child has special needs, ensure that the parenting plan addresses these requirements adequately.

Factor in the Age of the Child and Their Views

The age and maturity of the child should also be considered. Older children may have preferences regarding their living arrangements and visitation schedules. 

Don’t forget to account for the child’s own views and preference. 

Critical Components to Include in a Parenting Plan

A Parenting Plan should Now that we’ve covered the essential considerations let’s explore two critical components that should be included in any parenting plan:

  • Living arrangements
    Where will the child live? What nights will they spend with each parent?
  • Decision-Making Authority
    Specify how major decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities will be made. Will both parents share decision-making equally, or will one parent have primary authority in specific areas?
  • Communication
    How will parents communicate between themselves, and co-ordinate things such as pickups and drop offs?
  • Religion and Culture
    How will the child be raised? Are their cultural and religious needs being looked after?
  • Costs
    Which parent will pay for what and when?
  • Extended Family
    What involvement will extended family members have in the child’s life?

Parenting Plans – Are They Legally Binding?

One common question that arises when discussing parenting plans is whether they are legally binding. The answer is both yes and no. Parenting plans are not legally binding in the same way that Consent Orders are. 

However, they hold significant weight in family law proceedings. Courts generally consider a well-drafted parenting plan that reflects the child’s best interests as a valuable guide. If both parents follow the plan, it can provide a stable and supportive environment for the child.

However, if one parent deviates from the agreed-upon plan, the other parent may need to seek court intervention to enforce it. Therefore, while parenting plans are not legally binding in the strictest sense, they serve as a valuable tool for co-parents to establish clear expectations and reduce potential conflicts.

It is fairly common for parents to begin co-parenting with Parenting Plans, and to then submit them as proposed Consent Orders in order to have legal backing.

Child Support and Parenting Plans

Child support is another important aspect to consider when discussing parenting plans. Child support payments are designed to assist with the financial costs of raising a child and are usually determined based on various factors, including the parents’ income and the child’s needs. Parenting plans can have an impact on child support arrangements.

If both parents share parenting responsibilities equally, this may affect the amount of child support paid by either party. It can help to address these financial considerations in the parenting plan to ensure that both parents are on the same page regarding their financial responsibilities.

In conclusion, a parenting plan is a useful way for co-parents to navigate the complexities of raising a child after separation or divorce. At their best they provide a mutually agreed on framework for raising a child without having to deal with litigation. 

If you need assistance with a parenting plan, or any aspect of family law, get in touch with us – we would love to see how we can assist you.


Can You Change a Parenting Plan?

Yes, you can change a parenting plan. Parenting plans are designed to be flexible and adaptable to the changing needs and circumstances of the child and parents. 

You can typically modify it by mutual consent. It’s essential to maintain open communication and work together to reach a new agreement that better suits the current situation. 

Be sure to document any changes formally and keep a record of the updated plan, and we recommend engaging with a specialist lawyer.

What is a Parenting Plan for Centrelink?

A parenting plan for Centrelink is a document that outlines the agreed-upon care arrangements for a child when one or both parents receive government benefits from Centrelink in Australia. Centrelink uses this information to assess eligibility for certain family-related payments and benefits. It’s crucial to have a well-drafted parenting plan that accurately reflects the care arrangements to ensure you receive the appropriate financial support.

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