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Parenting arrangements

All families are different, and when making arrangements for children or applying for a parenting order, it’s important to make sure the arrangements are practical and in the children’s best interests.

When making a parenting order, the court must consider what’s in the children’s best interests .

The court will presume it’s in the children’s best interests for parents to have equal shared parental responsibility, unless there has been child abuse or family violence.

Equal shared parental responsibility is not the same as equal parenting time.

If your children are in someone else's care and you think they are in danger, contact the police. It’s a matter for the police whether they take action. In an emergency call 000. Get legal advice. 

Parents have duties and responsibilities in relation to their children whether they’re separated, divorced, re-married, re-partnered or were never in a relationship with each other.

When making arrangements for the children or applying for a parenting order, it’s important to make sure the arrangement is practical and in the children’s best interests . See what to consider when making parenting arrangements for more information.

A Family Relationships Centre, Legal Aid Queensland or a family dispute resolution service may be able to help you reach an agreement.

Parenting arrangements may cover:

  • where the children live
  • who the children spend time and communicate with
  • schooling or childcare
  • medical issues
  • religious or cultural practices
  • financial support for the children
  • parental responsibility for the arrangements
  • how those with parental responsibility will communicate with each other.

There are three different types of written parenting arrangements:

Who can be involved in parenting arrangements?

The law recognises that every family is different and that people other than parents (such as grandparents and extended family), may play an important role in the children’s lives.

Where it’s in the children’s best interests, grandparents, extended family and other people who are concerned with the welfare of children, can be included in a parenting plan, consent order or parenting order [In-page links]. Both parents must be part of any agreement or order in relation to the children. See caring for children when you are not the parent for more information.

If you agree

If both parents agree, you don’t need to go to court to formalise your agreement. You can record your agreement as a parenting plan  or a consent order.

Parenting plans

A parenting plan is a written agreement setting out the care arrangements for your children. It’s signed and dated and is a more informal way of agreeing on these arrangements.

It doesn’t have to be in any specific format or witnessed.

A parenting plan can be changed at any time with agreement from the other parent or any other people involved. 

They aren’t usually legally enforceable, but if you already have a parenting order or a consent order, a parenting plan made after the order will be legally enforceable in the areas where it’s different from the order. An exception to this is where the original order includes a rule that the order can’t be changed this way. You should get legal advice. 

If you apply for court orders after making a parenting plan, the court doesn’t have to follow your parenting plan, but it will consider it when deciding what kind of orders to make.

You should get legal advice before making a parenting plan.

Consent orders

You can make your agreement legally binding by applying to the court for consent orders—a written agreement (or parenting plan) approved by the court. Consent orders have the same legal effect as other parenting orders.

To apply for consent orders you’ll need to complete the approved court form — Application for consent orders kit and attach the proposed orders. You will also need to complete an Annexure to draft consent parenting order. This should be filed with the Court at the same time as the Application for Consent orders.

The consent order must be signed, dated and witnessed by an appropriate witness (eg a Justice of the Peace). You don’t need a lawyer to apply for consent orders, but we recommend getting legal advice as it will affect your future rights. There is a fee for filing an application for consent orders.

If the court approves your application for consent orders, a court seal will be placed on the consent order documents and both parents will be given a copy of the documents for your records.

Consent orders can only be changed by a further consent order, parenting plan or parenting order.

Get legal advice.

If you disagree

If you disagree, you can apply to the court for a parenting order.

Before applying you should try and reach an agreement through family dispute resolution . You must include a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner with your application saying that you’ve been to, or attempted to go to, family dispute resolution, or that it’s their opinion that it’s not appropriate for you to go. There are some exceptions to this — get legal advice.

Parenting orders

A parenting order is an order made by the court about your parental responsibilities and arrangements for your children .

The Family Law Act sets out what the court must consider when deciding what kind of parenting orders  to make.

A parenting order is legally enforceable and there can be serious consequences for disobeying an order .

Get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if:

  • you or your children are at risk of harm
  • you’re thinking about signing a parenting plan or consent orders, and before you file consent orders with the court
  • you’re going to court to get a parenting order
  • you have an existing court order and you want to make changes to the arrangements for your children
  • you disagree about what’s in the child’s best interests
  • you’ve signed a parenting plan or consent orders that you didn't agree with because you felt threatened or intimidated.

Get legal advice

We may give legal advice about making agreements for the arrangements for children.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Women's Legal Service gives free legal advice to women on areas of law including domestic violence and family law.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Family Relationship Advice Line gives information about the family law system in Australia.

Family Relationship Centres gives information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.

Family Court deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.

Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) investigates reports of harm or suspected child abuse against any child under 18.

Domestic and Family Violence Court Assistance Services  gives information and help about domestic violence and applications in some courts in Queensland. Court assistance workers can also help with applications for Legal Aid and referrals to other services.

DV Connect — gives counselling, information, referral and help including refuge and shelter placement and crisis intervention to people affected by domestic violence. They also manage the Pets in crisis project arranging foster care for pets while people affected by domestic violence are in temporary accommodation.

Mensline (DV Connect) is a free, confidential telephone counselling, referral and support service for men.

Men and Family Relationship Counselling Service has a range of services including domestic violence prevention counselling and help for men who have had police contact around domestic violence issues.

Queensland Police can help if you or your children are at risk of harm.

Related links and information
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