Parenting plans and consent orders

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 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.

If parents (or other people involved in a child's life) would like a legally enforceable agreement, they can apply to the Family Court for consent orders. Consent orders are a written agreement which has been approved by the court. 

How do I make a parenting plan?

To make a parenting plan, it must be:

  • made between the parents of the child
  • in writing
  • dated
  • 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.

What happens if a parent is not following a parenting plan?

As a parenting plan is not legally enforceable, if a parent is not following the plan it cannot be enforced by the Family Court. However, if a case is started in the Family Court, the court will take the parenting plan into consideration when deciding what orders to make. 

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 consent orders?

If you and the other parent want a legally enforceable agreement, you can make an application to the Family Court for consent orders. If the agreement you have made with the other parent is approved by the court it is legally enforceable.

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.

What happens if a parent is not following consent orders?

As consent orders are legally enforceable, if a parent is not following the consent orders, the other parent may make a contravention application to the Family Court or an application to enforce the orders.

More information

 

Reviewed: 26 September 2023

 

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.