What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a way of recording an agreement between you and the other parent of your child about the future arrangements for your child.
In order to be a parenting plan the agreement must:
- be freely entered into
- be in writing
- be signed by each parent
- show the date
Arrangements relating to other people who are important to the care, welfare and development of your child, such as grandparents, can also be included in a parenting plan.
What can a parenting plan include?
A parenting plan might include:
- where and with whom the child will live
- how and when the child will spend time and communicate with each parent and other important people such as grandparents
- who has parental responsibility for the children
- details about other things that may be important in children's lives, such as sporting commitments, education, religion or medical treatment
- who will pay for what expenses relating to the child (for example school books and uniforms, extra curricular activities)
- how you and the other parent might resolve differences between you in relation to your children in the future
- how you and the other parent might change the parenting plan if you need to in the future
- any other aspect of the care, welfare or development of your child or any other aspect of parental responsibility
How do I make a parenting plan?
First, you need to reach an agreement with the other parent about arrangements for your children. For information on different ways to resolve parenting issues, see Family dispute resolution and Other ways to resolve a family law dispute. Once you have come to an agreement you can make that agreement into a parenting plan by:
- putting the agreement in writing
- having both parents (and all other parties) sign it
- dating the agreement
A parenting plan will not be valid if a person was forced to agree to it.
It is advisable to seek legal advice if you intend to enter into a parenting plan.
Family Relationship Centres may be able to assist you with making a parenting plan (but cannot provide you with legal advice about the parenting plan).
What can I do if the other parent does not follow the parenting plan?
Parenting plans are not enforceable in the Family Court.
This means that the court will not be able to assist if the other parent breaks the agreement in the parenting plan. While parenting plans are not enforceable in court, there may still be consequences that flow from a breach.
For example, if you were to make an application to the Family Court for parenting orders after making the parenting plan, the court can take into account any agreements that were made in that parenting plan and even make orders in the same terms as the parenting plan if it would be in the Best interests of the child to do so.
If the other person does not return your child to your care as per the parenting plan (or established routine), you may be able to apply to the Family Court for a recovery order to have the child returned to your care. For more information, see Recovery orders.
What are the differences between parenting plans and parenting orders?
- are orders made by the Family Court
- can be made by agreement via consent orders or can be made by the Family Court during court proceedings about children
- are enforceable in the Family Court
- can be varied by a later parenting plan
- are agreements between parents which are in writing, signed and dated
- can be changed by making another parenting plan
- are not enforceable in the Family Court but can be taken into account by the court in making parenting orders
- can vary parenting orders made by a court.
Can I register my parenting plan?
No, you can no longer register your parenting plan with the Family Court of WA. If you would like to make your agreement more formal, you can seek to have your agreement made into consent orders. For more information, see Parenting orders.
Can parenting plans change parenting orders?
Parenting orders made on or after 1 July 2006 (for children of a marriage) or on or after 15 July 2006 (for children of a de facto relationship) can be varied with the agreement of both parents by making a subsequent (later) parenting plan, unless the orders state that they cannot be altered by a parenting plan.
The orders will only be varied to the extent of any inconsistency with the parenting plan. This means that where the parenting orders and the new parenting plan deal with the same issues, the arrangements in the parenting plan will be the arrangements that must be followed.
Because of this, it is particularly important to seek legal advice when making a parenting plan if you already have parenting orders that deal with the same issues.
How can I change my parenting plan?
You can change your parenting plan simply by making a new parenting plan. If you apply to the Family Court for parenting orders after you have made a parenting plan, those new parenting orders will set out the arrangements that must be followed. Remember that the original parenting plan may be considered by the court in deciding what parenting orders to make.
Where can I get more information?
- Go to the When Separating website. Here you will find short films about family law and other helpful information and links for families experiencing separation.
Last reviewed: 22/10/2012