February 2020 

Parenting Orders vs Parenting Agreements:
Which Is Right For You?


                                                                Gemma Smith

If you have separated or are in the process of separating, and you have children together, you should consider what parenting arrangements are right for you.

Informal Arrangements

An informal care arrangement for your children is when you or your partner or spouse reach agreement as to the care arrangements. Because it is informal, it does not prevent one of you unilaterally changing the arrangements, causing difficulty with organised plans, or preventing the other from seeing the children altogether.  This can occur for different reasons but mostly a lack of communication and emotional anger between parties following separation.

By making arrangements more formal both parents feel more secure with arrangements for their children clearly set out in a document that both parties have committed to with a regular routine set in place. Variations can be informally agreed, however the document sets out a default position that will apply in the event of disagreement.

Our family team can assist with negotiating arrangements and outlining your options for making day to day parenting arrangements for your children more legally binding, giving you piece of mind that your children will not be taken away from you.

Parenting Agreements

Formalising your parenting arrangements does not always mean that you need to go to Court. As parents you know what arrangements are best for your children and their everyday needs, so the parents are the best people to agree on what will work for them. A Parenting Agreement is a legally drafted document which sets out what you have agreed, to create certainty.

Parenting Orders By Consent

The difference between a Parenting Agreement and a Parenting Order is that a Parenting Order is sealed by the Court and parties face more serious consequences if they do not follow it. To obtain a Parenting Order, one of you makes application to the Family Court. Both parties then sign and file a memorandum of consent setting out the arrangement agreed upon. The Court is likely to make the Order in accordance with what both parties have agreed, although sometimes the Court may wish to meet with both parties prior to finalising the Order.

What if we can’t agree?

If you and your ex–partner cannot agree on arrangements for your children or you are prevented from seeing your children, contact our family law team at Corcoran French to discuss negotiating, mediation or making an application to the Court for a Parenting Order.  Applications can be made on an urgency basis if you believe there is a real risk of harm to the child or children when in the care of the other parent; or in cases where the children are being withheld from spending time with you.

If there is no urgency but you cannot informally agree, then proceedings need to be started by one party filing on notice and serving it on the other. You then need to attend Family Dispute Resolution mediation (FDR) and we can assist you with the preparation for the mediation. 

If you need assistance with a Parenting Agreement; assistance with the Family Dispute Resolution Act process or applying for an Order contact our family team today.