Guide to Parenting Plans and how to complete them
Step 1: Understanding what a Parenting Plan is
In Australia, a parenting plan refers to a written agreement between parents that sets out the arrangements for the care, welfare, and development of their children following separation or divorce. It is a document that outlines how parents will share responsibilities and make decisions regarding their children.
Step 2: Understanding the benefits and value of a Parenting Plan
Parenting plans are a voluntary agreement between the parents. They are not legally binding documents but hold significant weight in family law proceedings.
Parenting Plans focus on children’s best interests. The primary consideration in creating a parenting plan is the best interests of the children involved. The plan should promote their welfare, safety, and overall development.
Parenting plans are customizable and flexible, allowing parents to customize arrangements for their children according to their unique circumstances. They cover various aspects, including living arrangements, parental responsibility, education, health care, and the time and communication schedules of children spending time with one or both parents.
Parenting plans can be entered into at any time and are the result of an agreement being reached between parents It is encouraged for parents to engage in family dispute resolution processes to develop a parenting plan. When parents reach an agreement, it requires their voluntary consent.
Parenting plans can be reviewed and modified as circumstances change or when the needs of the children evolve. Flexibility and adaptability are important to ensure the plan remains in the children’s best interests.
While parenting plans are not legally binding, they are recognized by the family courts in Australia. If parents are unable to resolve disputes or conflicts in the future, the court may consider the terms of the parenting plan when making decisions about parenting arrangements. Parenting plans are also evidence of what parents previously agreed to.
Parenting plans address issues related to parental responsibilities and decision-making. This includes major long-term decisions about children’s education, health care, religious upbringing, and cultural matters.
Unlike formal court orders (ie. “Consent Orders”), parenting plans offer a more informal and cost-effective approach to resolving parenting matters. They promote cooperation and communication between parents, fostering a positive co-parenting relationship.
Step 3: Determining whether a parenting plan is appropriate in your family’s circumstances.
It is important to note that while parenting plans are widely used and respected, in certain situations, such as when there are significant disputes or concerns about the children’s well-being, it may be necessary to seek legal advice and formalize the arrangements through court orders (eg. “consent orders”).
If you require specific information or legal advice regarding parenting plans in Australia, it is recommended to consult with a family law professional or contact AFLAS triage or helping hands team.
Step 4: Download the parenting plan that is appropriate to your family’s situation
AFLAS provides two types of parenting plans:
- Parenting plans for children under or near the age of 4 years old (infant parenting plan); and
- Parenting plans for children over the age of 4 years (generic parenting plan)
Next, download your parenting plan.
Step 5: Reviewing the Document
Carefully read through the entire document to understand its purpose and structure.
Pay attention to sections highlighted in grey. These are prompts for you to insert relevant information specific to your parenting matters.
Step 6: Completing the Highlighted Sections
Locate the first highlighted section in grey. Read the prompt and think about the information it requires.
Replace the grey highlighting with your specific information. For example, if the prompt is “Name of Child: [Insert Name of Child],” you would replace the grey highlighting with the full name of your child.
Note: Be cautious not to delete any non-highlighted text that provides context or legal language.
Continue through the document, completing all highlighted sections in the same manner.
Take your time to ensure accuracy and provide as much detail as necessary.
Do not use capital letters unless asked to do so.
Step 7: Deleting Grey Highlighting and Red Text
Once you have completed all the highlighted sections, carefully review the entire document.
Remove all grey highlighting by selecting the text and changing the highlighting colour to the default setting (usually “No Colour” or “None”).
Delete any red text within the document, making sure you have already followed any essential instructions or information.
Step 8: Finalizing the Document
Proofread the document to check for any errors or inconsistencies.
Make any necessary revisions or additions for clarity and accuracy.
Save the document with a new filename to preserve the original template.
By following this guide, you can successfully complete a AFLAS Parenting Plan.
Remember to insert specific information in the grey-highlighted sections, delete all grey highlighting and any red text, and review the document for accuracy.
If you have any legal concerns or require professional advice, it is recommended to book a triage or “helping hands” consultation with the AFLAS team.