Parenting Orders: Understanding the Different Options for Care After Separation

Family Law

Separation can be a challenging and stressful time for families, especially when it comes to agreeing on parenting arrangements.

However, it is usually best for everyone involved if parents can come to their own agreement, focusing on the needs and best interests of the child.

In this article on Law Talk, we will explore the different options for parenting agreements in Australia and what to consider when making an agreement.

Parenting Agreements: what are they?

There are no strict rules about how parents should make an agreement to care for a child after separation. A parenting agreement can be an oral agreement, a written parenting plan, or an agreement that is put into a formal court order, called ‘consent orders’. This requires an application to the court.

Parenting Plans

A parenting plan is a written record of an agreement between the parents about the care of the children that is also signed and dated. There is no required format for a parenting plan, and making a parenting plan is cheaper and less stressful than going to court for a parenting order. Community-based family support services that offer dispute resolution can help parents make a parenting plan to suit the particular family circumstances.

When constructing a parenting plan, it is imperative that the focus remains on the well-being and best interests of the child.

This consideration extends to a wide range of factors such as;

  • the age of the child/s,
  • their specific needs
  • educational requirements
  • and most importantly, their safety

As the child/s grows and evolves, so too should the parenting plan, adapting to the changing needs of the developing individual. In the pursuit of creating a seamless and beneficial parenting plan, community-based family support services and expert family lawyers, can offer valuable assistance and guidance.

Parenting Orders

If parents continue to disagree about parenting arrangements, they may need a parenting order from a family court. Parents may also make an agreement between them but want it put into formal court orders ‘consent orders’. The Australian Government has published a handbook on how to develop parenting orders, and the Family Courts have “Do It Yourself Kits” and guidance about applying for parenting orders.

What to Consider When Making a Parenting Agreement

When making a parenting agreement, parents should think about a wide range of things including the age of the child, who is best placed to provide their day-to-day care, special needs the child may have (e.g. medical and schooling), their educational needs, practical considerations (e.g. around accommodation, transport and expenses), the cultural needs of the child, especially where the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the child’s own views, and the safety of the child. As children grow, and their needs change, parents may have to update their parenting agreement. There are people and services available who have specialist skills in helping parents make parenting agreements after separation.


Making a parenting agreement is a crucial aspect of parenting after separation. Parents should consider the best interests of the child and take into account factors such as the age of the child, their day-to-day care, educational and cultural needs, and their safety. As children grow and their needs change, parenting agreements may need to be updated.

For those who require additional help or guidance in making a parenting agreement, GAR Lawyers are experienced family lawyers located in Sydney, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. Our team of experts are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support you in navigating the complexities of family law and developing a parenting agreement that works for you and your child.

Contact us if you need some help.

If you would like to learn more about what was discussed in this article, or if you want some legal assistance. Please feel free to call us direct on 1300 706 490 or contact us below to send a message.

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