Going through a divorce is not a pleasant experience for anyone, especially the children of the relationship. During these difficult times, those children need to be supported, loved and cared for, ideally by both parents. It is not in the best interests of the children to have no stability surrounding these arrangements moving forward and a parenting plan provides some of this stability by formalising these arrangements.

A written and signed parenting plan that is negotiated by both parents is the most effective way of reaching an agreement that is suitable for the children’s needs. The parenting plan is a long-term strategy for protecting the children’s many needs, such as their financial, health, emotional and educational needs. The plan will also detail how long each parent spends with the children and establish an ongoing contact schedule. All of this can be done in the presence, and with the assistance, of a family lawyer. The benefits of putting everything into a more formalised format is that each party is aware of what is expected of them and it can serve an important function as a reference as the children grow up and each parent’s situation (work, income, living arrangements, etc.) changes.

The purpose of a parenting plan

In all family-related matters, the interests of the child come first. They are paramount and will always supersede those of the parents. The Family Court adopts this process in contested disputes, and all separating parties should follow suit.

The idea behind both parents committing to an agreement like a parenting plan is that it gives the children some stability moving forward after the separation, which can often be a traumatic experience to go through.

The parenting plan is designed to cover a scope of matters, ranging from financial contributions, the style of parenting, living arrangements (contact schedule), religious considerations, schooling, healthcare, and any emotional needs, such as counselling or psychotherapy.

What is important to note is that a parenting plan is not actually a legally enforceable document. Despite this, it can have legal consequences if not followed, and the Court will consider any parenting plan in any contested dispute relating to parenting matters.

Property Settlements

While parenting plans cover many areas about caring for the children, they do not cover how the money and assets will be disbursed and divided. These matters are best sorted in the presence of a family lawyer or a mediator with experience in property settlements.

Creating a Parenting Plan

There are several methods for creating a parenting plan. You could either personally work out the details of the plan with your ex-spouse/partner, or you could speak with a professional like a family lawyer or a family dispute resolution practitioner. This does not need to be done in the presence of your ex-spouse/partner and can be done over the phone or via email.

Each parenting plan is unique but the idea is to keep it as clear as possible so that there is no confusion or likelihood of confusion. If the parenting plan is overly complex, it may require constant review.

Conclusion

If you need assistance in setting up a parenting plan or have questions about the process of setting one up, contact a family lawyer or a family dispute resolution specialist. Our lawyers have plenty of experience in assisting parents with these delicate matters and always have the children’s best interests in mind.

Emma Jervis

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