Parenting plans

There is nothing that says you and your former partner have to come up with a formal agreement about raising your children. 

However, putting something down in writing can help each of you have a clearer understanding about the future arrangements for your children, and make it less likely to end up with misunderstandings or disagreements about what should happen later on.

A parenting plan is a way of creating a formal agreement about parenting, without applying for orders in the family court.

This information will help you to understand parenting plans.  Find out:

  • how to make (and change) parenting plans
  • what things a parenting plan can cover
  • what happens if the other parent does not follow the parenting plan.

How do I make a parenting plan?

Parenting plans are designed to be simple to make and change. Each parent must freely agree to make a parenting plan (without being threatened, pressured or forced). You don't need to use special words or forms to create a parenting plan: it must be in writing, and be signed and dated by each parent.

If your parenting plan includes arrangements relating to other people who are important in the children's lives (such as grandparents or step-parents), they can also be asked to agree to and sign the parenting plan if you want.

You can agree to change an existing parenting plan by simply making a new plan.

What arrangements can a parenting plan cover?

A parenting plan can cover anything to do with your children and parenting, including arrangements for:

  • parental responsibility for the children 
  • where the children live and who they live with
  • how and when the children will spend time and communicate with each parent, and other important people
  • details about other events that may be important, such as sport, school, religion or medical treatment
  • how expenses will be shared or divided
  • how you and the other parent might resolve disagreements you have different opinions about something in the future
  • how you and the other parent might change the parenting plan if you need to, and
  • anything else that is important to you about the care, welfare or development of your children.
Can parenting plans change parenting orders?

If your parenting orders were made by the Family Court after July 2006, you can make a new parenting plan with different arrangements, unless the parenting orders says that it cannot be changed in this way. 

The parenting plan only overrules the parts of the parenting orders that deal with exactly the same issues. Those parts of the parenting orders cannot be enforced in court, but the rest of the parenting orders must still be followed. 

If you already have parenting orders, it is important to get legal advice before you sign a parenting plan that covers any of the same issues.

What can I do if the other parent does not follow our parenting plan?

Parenting plans are not enforceable in the Family Court and the court will not be able to make the other parent follow the parenting plan.

If you have used a parenting plan to change court orders, it is important to remember that both the old arrangements under the parenting orders, and the new arrangements under the parenting plan, cannot be enforced in court.

However, the fact that parents have made a parenting plan can be important to the court if you end up starting a parenting case in court.

  • If the other parent ignores a parenting plan (or established routine) and does not return the children to your care, you may be able to apply to the Family Court for a recovery order to have the children returned.
  • If you apply for parenting orders in the Family Court, the court can look at the agreements and arrangements under your most recent parenting plans when deciding what arrangements would be in the best interests of your children. There is nothing stopping the court from making orders that match parts of a parenting plan, if those arrangements are the best for the children. 

What if I want to turn my parenting plan into a parenting order?

If you and the other parent agree, you can apply to the court to have your parenting plan approved by the court as a consent order. A consent order has the same legal effect as a parenting order. If you and the other parent are applying for consent orders, you do not need to have a FDR certificate or attend a court hearing. 

If they don't agree to apply for consent orders, you can only get enforceable orders by starting a parenting case in the Family Court.

 

More information

Family Court of WA

Dispute Resolution at Legal Aid WA

We can help you work through family law problems without going to court, including arrangements for children and property settlements.

When Separating

Videos, information, resources and referrals for couples and families going through separation or divorce.

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.