As usual, the year has flashed past us in the blink of an eye. It feels like just yesterday we welcomed in the new year and had the crazy rush of the Christmas period. But here we are again, just a few months away from that same period of madness. One of the last things we want to be worrying about over that time is the plans and arrangements for the children, and specifically with whom, when and where they will be spending time over the holidays and festive period.
It can be incredibly helpful to have a set schedule in place for the children to ensure that everything runs like clockwork, but it can be achieved.
My partner and I are in agreement about the parenting arrangements. What are our options?
When formalising parenting arrangements by consent, there are two options available:
- a parenting plan; or
- consent orders.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is effectively an agreement reached between a child’s parents. It deals with a number of aspects of a child’s care arrangements such as who the child lives with and the time a child will spend with the other parent (including on special occasions), as well as other matters such as the communication a child will have with a parent or other person.
In order for a parenting plan to be valid and effective it must be in writing, made between the parents, signed by both parents and dated.
A parenting plan is a good option in circumstances where the parents are in agreement with respect to a child’s parenting arrangements. A parenting plan also provides flexibility in terms of altering the arrangements at a later time, so may be preferred where there are younger children involved. It is important to note that whilst a parenting plan can be effective (provided the requirements outlined above are met), it is not binding or enforceable in a court, unlike consent orders.
What are Consent Orders?
Similar to parenting plans, consent orders provide for a vast number of aspects of a child’s care arrangements. The difference is that consent orders are orders are made by the court, and are binding and enforceable. This means that in the event either parent breaches a consent order in any way, the court can hold you in contempt of the orders, which can result in a fine or imprisonment.
Consent orders are suitable in circumstances where the parenting arrangements will continue right up until the child is 18 years of age. If the orders need to be changed, the parents need to apply to the court to vary the orders to do so. It is not always guaranteed that an application will be approved, unless both parents consent to the change or there has been a significant change in circumstances. If you are considering varying a court order, you should seek legal advice.
My partner and I just cannot agree on the care arrangements for the children. What can I do?
If you cannot agree on the parenting arrangements, you may need to consider applying to the court to find a solution. However, before an application can be made (unless there are exceptional circumstances), the parents need to attempt mediation.
If a resolution is still not reached at mediation, an application to the court will more than likely be necessary in order to have a formal arrangements put in place for the children. Whilst not desirable given the costs, delay and emotional strain associated with the court process, this is sometimes the only option in order to achieve an outcome that provides security and stability for the children.
In the lead up to the silly season, we urge parents to consider implementing formal care arrangements for the children in order to reduce any added anxiety and stress to an already high pressure period. Contact our team of experienced family lawyers to discuss parenting arrangements for your children ahead of the Christmas period.