Can a par­ent­ing plan be enforced?

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.

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