Parenting plans are written agreements made between parents after separation. They set out how a child will be cared for, including the time the child will spend with each parent, and other parenting matters such as how decisions will be made.
Parenting plans are not lodged with the Family Court and are not a legally enforceable. However, it can be helpful for parents to have a parenting plan as a record of what they have agreed to and make it less likely for misunderstandings in the future.
Another benefit of a parenting plan is that care arrangements for a child can be flexible as the plan can be easily changed.
Although a parenting plan is not legally enforceable, if a parent is not following the plan, and a case is started in the Family Court, the court will take it into consideration when deciding what orders to make.
How do I make a parenting plan?
To make a parenting plan, it must be:
- made between the parents of the child
- in writing
- signed by both parents, and
- freely agreed to by both parents (without threat, pressure or force).
Parents can change an existing parenting plan by simply making a new plan.
What can be included in a parenting plan?
Parents can include anything they wish to in their parenting plan about arrangements for their child and how they will raise their child.
Some examples of what can be covered in a parenting plan include:
- who their child will live with and how much time they will spend with both of their parents
- the time their child will spend with other important people in their life, such as grandparents
- how parents will share parental responsibility (how they will make decisions such as where their child will go to school)
- how special occasions such as birthdays and important religious/cultural celebrations will be shared, and
- how they will try to work out any disagreements they may have in the future.
Can parenting plans change court orders about a child?
A parenting plan can be used to change court orders about a child. If the Family Court has made orders about a child, parents can make a new parenting plan with different arrangements (unless the court orders say that they are not allowed to do this). The parenting plan would change the parts of the court orders that deal with the same issues. The rest of the court orders would still be in place and must be followed.
If you are thinking about using a parenting plan to change court orders about your child, it is recommended you get legal advice.
What if we want a legally enforceable agreement?
If you and the other parent want a legally enforceable agreement, you can make an application to the Family Court for consent orders. A consent order is a written agreement which is approved by the court.
If the agreement you have made with the other parent is approved by the court it is legally enforceable. This means that if you or the other parent aren’t following what the consent orders say, the Family Court can enforce the orders.
You can apply to the Family Court for consent orders by completing and lodging the following documents:
- Application – Consent Orders (Form 11), and
- Draft consent orders (the agreement you have reached).
The application form can be found on the Family Court of WA website. The documents need to be lodged on the eCourts Portal of WA.
You can find step-by-step practical information about how to register for the eCourts Portal of WA and lodge your Family Court of WA documents in the Infosheet, Family Court of WA: Signing and filing documents.
Reviewed: 29 March 2023