16 March 2011 Can a parenting plan be enforced?

By Caroline Bass, Senior Associate

In Brief - Enforcement of court orders and parenting plans

A court can fine or gaol a parent for not abiding by court orders. However, this is not the case with parenting plans.  

Parents' responsibility

Without court orders or parenting plans, both parents are legally responsible for their children’s upbringing and this responsibility continues even if the relationship breaks down. Generally, parents are the people who know what is best for their children, so it is usually in the best interests of children for parents to agree about what will happen to their children. This agreement can be documented either as consent orders with the court, or a parenting plan.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written document confirming what the parents have agreed to with respect to their children. It is signed and dated by both parents, but is not lodged with the court (in the way that consent orders are). Parenting plans are not legally binding and cannot be enforced by the court. However, it is not recommended that you enter into a parenting plan without seeking legal advice first, as the provisions of the parenting plan are very persuasive and the court may take them into account.

Enforceable agreements

Given that parenting plans are not enforceable, if you reach an agreement with your former spouse about parenting arrangements for your children and would like to make the agreement enforceable, then you will need to document your agreement as consent orders sealed by the court.

Enforcement of court orders

If you have court orders, they can be enforced by the court through various means. For example, a court can order that the children are collected from one parent and delivered to the care of the other parent, or that there be make up time given if one parent misses time with the children because of the actions of the other parent. A court can fine or even gaol a parent who does not abide by court orders. There is also the possibility that a court will change orders to reflect that the children live with the other parent if a parent does not comply with the court orders.

For further information, please contact:

Caroline Bass, Partner  |  Phone: +61 2 9233 5544  |  Email:

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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