A common question our family lawyers in Perth hear is ‘what’s the difference between parenting plans and consent orders?’.
Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between parenting plans and consent orders.
What Are Parenting Plans?
Parenting Plans are voluntary agreements reached by both parents outside of the Family Court, which deal with the care and wellbeing of their children after a divorce or separation.
Such matters may include:
- with whom the children will live,
- time children will spend with the other parent and perhaps other relatives,
- financial support,
- children’s daily routines and activities,
- the form of communication to be used between the parents,
- relocation of children,
- or any other issues parents may wish to stipulate.
What Are Consent Orders?
Consent Orders are also voluntary written agreements reached by both parents, covering the care and wellbeing of their children, but do not include as many factors such as finances and child support. They have to be approved by the Family Court and may therefore take a little longer to obtain.
There are however, several more fundamental differences between parenting plans and consent orders.
Key Differences Between Parenting Plans & Consent Orders
Does it need to be Court approved?
Parenting Plans do not need to be approved by the Family Court, while Consent Orders do, in order to make them legal. The Court will however, need to be satisfied that the Consent Order sought is in the best interests of the child or children. Despite the Consent Order having to be approved by the Court, neither parent needs to enter into a lengthy and costly Court procedure.
Only if parents cannot agree on the arrangements of their children, normally through the mandatory mediation process, will they have to go through the Family Court, which will then make the final decision on their behalf, based on what is in the best interests of the children.
Is it legally enforceable?
Parenting Plans are not legally enforceable and are suited for divorcing couples who can continue to maintain an amicable relationship.
Consent Orders are handed down by the Court and are therefore legally binding and enforceable. They are strongly recommended in cases where one parent may suspect the other of not complying with the Order in the future.
Consent Orders also serve as a strong deterrent to any parent who may be thinking of disobeying the agreement. There can be penalties for breaching your Orders.
What does it cost?
Parenting Plans are not required to be Court approved and therefore have no filing fee with the Court.
Consent Order applications cost $170 to file via the Family Court.
If using a family lawyer to draw up either a parenting plan or a consent order, there may be additional costs for their legal services.
Can it be changed?
Parenting Plans are more flexible and can be changed by mutual agreement in future as circumstances change.
Consent Orders can only be changed by a subsequent application to the Court.
In the event of a parent wishing to change a Parenting Plan to a Court Order, the Court will certainly consider the terms of the Parenting Plan, but will not be bound by them. The overall ruling will, once again, be based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Should I Get A Parenting Plan Or A Consent Order?
As all families and divorces come with their own unique circumstances, obtaining some legal advice, is strongly recommended. As it is mandatory in Australia for all divorcing couples with children to first attempt family mediation, your mediator will be the best person to advise you on which option will best suit your needs.