Parenting plans

A parenting plan is an agreement between parents who do not live together about how they will continue to care for the children as parents. Parenting plans are referred to in the Family Law Act and encouraged by Parliament. You can find a document which helps you draw up a parenting plan here. It is published by Relationships Australia.

Parenting plans can deal with a lot of different issues which parents need to think about. Of course, the big issues are likely to be about where the children will live and attend school and how much time they will spend with each parent. This needs to be worked out, but there may be other practical issues to think about as well.

  • How will you organise special days like birthdays, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, religious holidays or other special times of the year?
  • Are there conflicts about medical treatment, discipline, or education? If so, how should they be resolved?
  • If you live along way from each other, how will the children move between homes? If the children will travel by car from one home to the other who will do the driving, or how will it be shared? If train or plane travel is needed, who will pay or how will the cost be shared?
  • If there are disputes that can’t be resolved between you, how will they be worked out? It can be good, for example, to agree in advance to go to a named mediator or mediation service. Alternatively, you might agree to seek the advice of a child psychologist or other therapist.

Using the framework of a parenting plan is a good way to work through a range of practical issues like this.

A parenting plan is not enforceable in court, but if there is a dispute between the parents, the court will consider what the parenting plan says: see here. If there is a high level of distrust between the parents, or there is constant conflict about the parenting arrangements, it may be best to get court orders; but if the parents get along without too much conflict then it may be that a parenting plan is enough.