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.
Parents have duties and responsibilities in relation to their children no matter what type of relationship they are in.
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.
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:
- parenting plan
- consent order
- parenting order
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. Both parents must be part of any agreement or order in relation to the children.
If you agree
If both parents agree to the parenting plan, 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.
A parenting plan is a written agreement setting out the care arrangements for children. It’s signed and dated by the children’s parents and is an informal way of agreeing on these arrangements. You should get legal advice before making a parenting plan.
A parenting plan can be changed at any time by making another written agreement which is signed and dated by the children’s parents.
Parenting plans aren’t legally enforceable. If you already have a parenting order or a consent order, a parenting plan made after the order will make any terms of the original order, which are varied, legally unenforceable. An exception to this is where the original order includes a rule that the order can’t be changed this way. If you are planning to vary a parenting order or a consent order by making a parenting plan, you should get legal advice before doing so.
If you apply for a parenting order after making a parenting plan, the Court doesn’t have to follow the parenting plan, but the Court will consider it when deciding what kind of orders to make.
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.
amica is a secure online service that helps separating couples to:
- make parenting arrangements if they have children.
- divide their money and property simply.
amica can help you negotiate and communicate online with your former partner to reach an amicable agreement. If you can agree on a property settlement and parenting arrangements with your former partner, this can potentially cut your legal costs and save you money.
amica guides you through a step-by-step process, and offers you information and support along the way to help you reach an agreement.
amica was developed by National Legal Aid and Legal Aid commissions including Legal Aid Queensland, with funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.
Find out more at amica.gov.au
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.
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.
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