Parenting Plans and Consent Orders are agreements that set out parenting arrangements for separated or divorced couples with children. Both of these types of agreements are encouraged by the court and can be legally formalised – however, there are some differences between the two. Take a look at the unique features of each to determine which agreement will work for your family.

What’s the Difference Between a Parenting Plan and a Consent Order?

Parenting Plan is an agreement made by separated parents that outlines parenting arrangements for the children. It’s a voluntary agreement and is not legally binding. Parenting Plans are jointly agreed upon and can be changed by either parent at any time if both parties agree to the changes.

 Consent Order is also a written agreement that sets out parenting arrangements for children, but unlike a Parenting Plan, a Consent Order is approved by the court and is legally enforceable. It can also cover things like maintenance (child and spousal support), property division and other financial arrangements.


FeatureParenting PlanConsent Order
Formal agreement made by separated parents ü


Sets out parenting arrangements ü


Usually sets out financial arrangements û


Parents can agree to change it at any time ü


Is enforceable by law û


Must act within the best interests of the child ü


The court considers the agreement if the parents end up in court again ü ü
Must normally be filed within 12 months of divorce of parents û


Filing fees must be paid to court in most cases ü ü
Legal advice recommended ü ü

What Kinds of Things Should be Included in a Parenting Plan or Consent Order?

A Parenting Plan or Consent Order can contain information about any aspect of the children’s welfare, care and development. To avoid future complications, it’s recommended that the plan be kept simple and practical.

 The Family Court of Australia suggests the plan should include information about:

  • Who the children will live with
  • What time they’ll spend with each parent
  • What time they’ll spend with other people
  • How they will communicate with each parent or other people
  • Arrangements for birthdays and holidays
  • How you will change the parenting plan or resolve disagreements
  • Financial maintenance of a child (there are special rules about including child support in your Parenting Plan)
  • Any other issue about parental responsibility or the care, welfare and development of the child.

Who Can Help Us Make a Plan?

If it’s unlikely that you and your former partner will be able to agree on the best arrangements for your children, you’re encouraged to speak to family solicitors and attend family dispute resolution sessions. At these sessions, your Solicitor will help you come up with a plan that suits everyone while prioritising the best interests of the children.

If you and your former partner need help making arrangements for the care of your children, contact the family solicitors at Robert Wood and Associates for truly caring family law advice. Call us on 9762 3877 today.