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Parenting Plans – Navigating the world of co-parenting with a road map


A parenting plan is a written, non-legally binding agreement between two parents concerning their child/ren. It is not enforceable in the Court, however it may be used as evidence at a later date if Court proceedings commence. Moreover, in some circumstances a parenting plan can override previous Court Orders.

Similar to a set of parenting Orders, a parenting plan will contain various clauses. They are not called “Orders” because they do not have the force of law behind them and nobody hands them down, as a Judge makes parenting Orders. However, they can deal with the same types of matters that orders will often deal with. These are, for example: –

  • Outlining the set times the children will spend time with each parent.
  • Describing how changeover is to occur (e.g. location and time). 
  • Identifying how the parties are to primarily communicate (i.e. by phone calls, e-mail, SMS) 
  • Allocating parental responsibility between the parties. 
  • Stipulating how the children will spend time with the parents during special occasions such as Birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s/Father’s Day. 
  • What needs to occur when one parent wishes to travel overseas with the child/ren. 
  • What will happen if a medical emergency relating to the child/ren occurs. 
Parenting plans can address what needs to happen before a parent travels with a child (e.g. providing the other party notice; itinerary details of dates, locations; completing passport applications).

A well-drafted parenting plan is a useful guide for separated parents. It provides a framework from which they can conduct their co-parenting following separation. It helps to ensure that parties are on the same line of thinking, which in turn minimises communication breakdowns and uncertainties. Ultimately, it ensures that co-parenting in a post-separation environment operates as smoothly as possible

In circumstances of high conflict – that is, where the parties’ cannot communicate productively and will have trouble seeing eye-to-eye – legally binding orders may be preferable. This is particularly in cases where there exists a power imbalance and one party bullies the other into getting their way. In these cases, the enforceability of a parenting plan may favour the “stronger party” and the other party is left with no recourse. In these circumstances it would be better for the parties to have a legally binding document, as it ensures there are legal repercussions for non-compliance with the orders. 

Ultimately, the suitability of a parenting plan will depend on your unique circumstances. Provided there is a mutual commitment to parenting post-separation and no high risk issues (i.e. allegations of family violence or child abuse), a parenting plan is an effective way to give clarity and guidance to navigating the world of co-parenting world following separation.

Get in Touch

If you would like to discuss the possibility of a parenting plan in your unique circumstance, follow the inquiry process here. Upon reviewing your information, we will then get in touch with you to arrange a consultation to discuss the next steps.

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