The Benefits of a Parenting Plan vs. Parenting Consent Orders

June 20, 2023

Separation can be an emotionally challenging time, especially when children are involved. As parents, we want to limit the impact of separation on our children as much as possible and we want to find ways to support their wellbeing and provide a stable and nurturing environment through this transition. This a tricky balance as there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of big feelings (for everyone involved) and you’re also finding your way forward. That’s where a clear parenting framework can come into play.

Today, we want to take you through the difference between a Parenting Plan and Parenting Consent Orders and shed light on the benefits of embracing a Parenting Plan as a means of reducing stress, conflict, and costs.

We know that one of the biggest ways you and your children can have certainty and alleviate the stress you’re all experiencing is to have a parenting framework that clearly sets out the arrangements for your children. This can be achieved through either a Parenting Plan or Parenting Consent Orders.  Let’s explore some of the differences and benefits between these two options.

What’s the difference between Parenting Plans & Parenting Consent Orders?

Parenting Plans and Parenting Consent Orders are both tools to record the parenting arrangements for children after separation. However, they differ in their formality and legal enforceability.

Parenting Consent Orders is an agreement reached between you and your Ex which outline the specific parenting arrangements for your children. Parenting Consent Orders are signed by both parents and lodged with the Family Law Courts to approve and issue as formal court orders. Once approved by the Court, Parenting Consent Orders become legally binding and must be followed by both parents. If either parent does not comply with the Orders, then this can result in a breach and there can be consequences for the contravening parent. While Parenting Consent Orders provide a high level of certainty and structure, they can often be rigid and difficult to modify without further dispute resolution and court intervention. For this reason, Parenting Consent Orders will apply until they are varied by the parents’ agreement or a further court order. This can mean that the arrangements in Parenting Consent Orders could apply up until your children are 18 years old.

On the other hand, a Parenting Plan is a written agreement between parents that outlines the practical arrangements for the care and upbringing of their children. It allows parents the flexibility to tailor their plan to meet the unique needs and circumstances of their family. It is a document that is signed and dated by both parents to formally record both parents’ commitment and agreement to the arrangements in the Parenting Plan. Although not legally binding, a Parenting Plan holds considerable weight and can be taken into account by the Family Law Courts if court proceedings start in relation to parenting issues between parents.  However, if a parent does not follow the Parenting Plan, this would not be treated as a breach in the same way as non-compliance with a Parenting Consent Order. Nevertheless, it is an appealing option because the flexibility of a Parenting Plan, means it can be modified easily with the agreement of both parents to reflect the changing needs of children and promote successful co-parenting.

Benefits of a Parenting Plan

Here are some of the benefits of a Parenting Plan:

1. Reducing Stress 

The emotional toll of separation on children (and parents) is often heightened by ongoing conflict between parents. By choosing a Parenting Plan, you take control of the decision-making process, fostering a collaborative approach that minimises stress for both you and your children. You won’t have the ongoing stress of constantly negotiating arrangements for your children from week to week or as each school holiday or special occasion comes up. You and your Ex can create a plan for your children’s future care, without court intervention. While the discussions and negotiations with your Ex will be a fine balancing act, the benefit of having a clear framework without going through a stressful court process will worth it. You will create an environment that promotes certainty and your children’s emotional wellbeing.

2. Minimising Conflict 

Going to court can escalate tensions and increase conflict between parents, leaving a lasting impact on children. By opting for a Parenting Plan, you can work together to find common ground and make decisions that align with your children’s needs and each parent’s situation. Once you and your Ex have a clear agreement on the specific arrangements for your children, there is less need for ongoing negotiations and disputes as you are both working on the same page. This cooperative approach promotes effective communication, reducing the likelihood of disputes and allowing for amicable problem-solving.

3. Tailoring Solutions 

No two families are the same, and cookie-cutter solutions rarely address the unique dynamics of each situation and the specific needs of children. A Parenting Plan allows you to customise the arrangements for your children based on your family’s specific needs, schedules, and preferences. This flexibility empowers you to create a plan that reflects your shared values and promotes a sense of continuity and stability for your children.

4. Cost-Effectiveness 

Court proceedings can be financially draining, requiring the involvement of lawyers, and other professionals. By choosing a Parenting Plan, you can avoid costly legal battles and redirect those resources toward creating a nurturing environment for your children and offering them the lifestyle you had planned before the separation. A Parenting Plan encourages open dialogue and compromise, enabling you to find creative solutions without the need for extensive court involvement.

5. Reviewing the arrangements

Life will change, and so will the needs of your children and each parent’s situation. As the Parenting Plan is a mutual agreement between you and your Ex, it is a document that can be easily and readily modified by further agreement to reflect the changing needs of your family. One of the greatest benefits of a Parenting Plan is its ability to evolve through regular review and updates. You and your Ex can incorporate a regular review of the arrangements in your Parenting Plan to ensure the plans you have made for your children continue to meet their needs and be practical and sustainable. For some, this review happens annually and for other co-parents, every two or three years may be more suitable based on the ages of your children.

Benefits of a Parenting Consent Order

While a Parenting Plan offers flexibility and promotes cooperation, there are situations where a Parenting Consent Order may be more suitable. Here are some benefits of opting for a Parenting Consent Order:

1. Legal Certainty 

Parenting Consent Orders provide a legally binding and enforceable agreement approved by the court. This means that both parents are obligated to adhere to the agreed-upon arrangements, providing a sense of certainty and stability. If one parent fails to comply with the Parenting Orders, then there are legal remedies available to enforce compliance with the agreed arrangements. There is significant benefit in having a binding and enforceable Court Order where there is a high level of conflict, one parent has a difficult personality or there have been previous issues with a parent following the agreed arrangements. A prescriptive and specific document that clearly outlines the parenting arrangements and how parents and children are to make decisions and communicate can be an effective tool in reducing children’s (and parents) experience of ongoing conflict and stress.

2. Clear Dispute Resolution Process 

Parenting Consent Orders can include provisions for dispute resolution mechanisms, such as parenting co-ordination, or mediation, in case conflicts arise in the future. This structured process can help resolve disagreements without the need for costly and time-consuming court proceedings.

3. Tailoring Solutions 

In the same way that you can tailor a Parenting Plan to the individual needs of your children, the arrangements outlined in a Parenting Consent Order can be customised to your family’s specific needs, schedules, and preferences. Parents can agree on a wide scope of arrangements for their children such as, day to day arrangements, school holidays, special occasion, interstate and overseas travel, healthcare and schooling. There is also scope within these specific arrangements for a degree of flexibility based on the mutual agreement of both parents from time to time. This enables parents to come up with a more expansive and extensive agreement about their children, particularly as the Parenting Consent Orders will apply until there are further court orders or children turn 18 years old.

4. Protection against Future Changes 

By obtaining a Parenting Consent Order, you can secure the agreed-upon arrangements for the long term. This means that the other parent cannot unilaterally change the parenting arrangements without going through the proper legal process. This process will involve dispute resolution and establishing that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original orders were approved by the Court. This provides a level of protection against potential future disputes or attempts to modify the arrangements without the mutual consent of both parents.

5. Clarity for Third Parties

A Parenting Consent Order clarifies the legal rights and responsibilities of each parent, making it clear to each parent and any third parties, such as schools and healthcare providers, how decisions are to be made and the parenting arrangements.  This makes it easier for both parents to communicate and collaborate with third parties involved in their children’s lives. Having a court-approved Parenting Order provides a clear framework for everyone involved, ensuring consistency and minimising confusion and issues.

It’s important to note that even with a Parenting Consent Order, it is still possible to maintain a cooperative and amicable co-parenting relationship. The Parenting Consent Order serves as a legal framework while allowing for open communication and flexibility in day-to-day parenting decisions.

Both a Parenting Plan and a Parenting Consent Order offer distinct advantages depending on your circumstances. While a Parenting Plan provides flexibility and promotes collaboration, a Parenting Consent Order offers legal certainty and a level of protection against future changes without mutual agreement.

At Bespoke Family Lawyers, we understand the complexity of post-separation parenting. Whether you choose a Parenting Plan or a Parenting Consent Order, we are here to guide and support you throughout the process, ensuring the best outcomes for you and your children.

Take control of your parenting arrangements, explore your options, and make informed decisions that prioritise the wellbeing of your family. Together, we can navigate the path of co-parenting and create a positive future for everyone involved.

We are launching our Parenting Plan Package in July 2023. If you would like to join the waitlist to be the first to know what’s included and how it can help you and your family create a great parenting plan that reduces stress and conflict, then sign up to the waitlist here.

Our expert team of family lawyers would love to help you to move toward the life and future you want to build with clarity and confidenceBook your strategic planning session today or download our helpful free resources.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or any other professional advice.

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Feeling unsure where to start?

Let us guide you through what’s involved in untangling your relationship and give you the tools to set yourself up to move forward.

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