Parenting plans and consent orders—what are they?

Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.


Life after separation - putting the pieces back together

Chapter 6 - Parenting plans and consent orders

>> PRESENTER: When you go through the Legal Aid Dispute Resolution process, if you reach agreement you will be assisted to finalise a Consent Order that is lodged with the court, where as at the Family Relationship Centre you can come away with a parenting plan or a consent order.

[Interview: PRESENTER, Legal Aid Representative, NATASHA RAE, and Family Relationship Centre Representative, GREG SHANLEY.] [Continues]

>> PRESENTER [Continues]: So Natasha, what’s the difference?

>> NATASHA: Well, A consent order is an agreement that separated parents make about arrangements for their children and possibly finances that is lodged with a court.

To lodge the agreement an application is made to the court but you do not have to attend a court hearing.  The court will look at the agreement and issue a consent order if it is approved.

>> GREG: A parenting plan is a less formal agreement that separated parents make about the care and support arrangements for their children.

It can include anything the parents need to agree on about their children.  The plans are drawn up during the dispute resolution process and are signed by both parents. Parenting plans can then be turned into consent orders if both parents want this to happen.

>> PRESENTER: If you have any questions about parenting plans or consent orders you should speak with a lawyer.
Are parenting plans and consent orders both legally binding? 

>> NATASHA: Well, consent orders are court orders that set out what both parents must do.

They have the same force and effect as if you had gone to court, and the court had made the decision. If you break a court order you are breaking the law and you could be punished.

If you make a parenting plan and break it, you could both return to family dispute resolution to review your parenting arrangements. Or, the other person may take you to court and apply for the court to make an order.

The court will ask you why you broke the parenting plan and might make consent orders that you may not like as much as the plan you had.

>> PRESENTER: What happens if there is a disagreement about something in the plan or order in the future?

>> NATASHA: If you want to change the consent order down the track, you’ll need to apply to the court for either new consent orders or for the court to make other orders.

Whereas a parenting plan can be changed more easily – as long as you both agree – without having to go to court.
It is important to get legal advice and information about what sort of agreement you will need. This is important regardless of what service you use for family dispute resolution. 

Last updated 25 November 2015