The simple answer is “no”. There is no requirement that separated parents obtain a court order addressing care arrangements for your children. You and your former partner may choose to seek that consent orders be issued by the Family Court. However, if relations with your former partner are amicable, then court orders would not seem necessary.
Court orders provide certainty for parties as to when children are in each of their care. On the downside though, orders are not generally as flexible as a parenting plan which may be more easily varied. After orders are issued, if you wish to vary their terms, you may need to seek that the Court makes further orders varying the terms. That can be a time consuming and costly exercise, often with no certainty as to the variation that the Court may be willing to make.
A Parenting Plan on the other hand has the advantage of flexibility. A Plan is any written, signed and dated agreement made without any threat, duress or coercion between parents of a child. It may deal with various matters including:
- The person/s (normally a parent) with whom a child is to live;
- The time that a child will spend with another person/s (normally the other parent);
- How parental responsibility for a child is to be allocated;
- The frequency and manner of communication that a child is to have with another person/s (often the parent who does not at the time have care of the child);
- The manner in which disputes concerning the operation of the plan are to be resolved;
- Any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child.
A parenting plan is not enforceable but can assist parties to clarify their intentions for the care arrangements for their children.
A parenting plan may exist alongside a parenting order. The order may address significant issues such as the parent with whom the child lives and the time that the child spends with the other parent. The parenting plan may deal with other issues such as how disputes are to be resolved although that issue may also be addressed in a parenting order.
You should be aware though that parenting orders will be subject to later parenting plans (unless the plans were made under threat, duress or co-ercion).
Our child custody lawyers at LGM Family Law understand that working out parenting arrangements for your children after a separation is often very stressful for a parent. We are able to assist you in determining whether a parenting order or Court order will be in the best interests of your child and preparing terms that will suit your family’s circumstances. Contact us today for a free initial telephone consultation and have the peace of mind that you deserve.