Life after separation is a difficult time for most people, add the extra worry of having to work out how your children are going to spend time with each parent, and there is no wonder why parents can be left feeling overwhelmed. However, if you and your ex-partner can agree about the care arrangements for the children, there are two options available to make moving forward with family life after separation more amicable, either by way of a Parenting Plan or a Consent Order. But what is the difference? Let me explain.

Parenting Plans

A parenting plan is an informal, written agreement made between the parents which outlines the care arrangements for your children.  There is no set form, it can be short, simple and written on any sort of paper. It only requires that both parents come to an agreement in writing and is signed by both parents. You can amicably come to an agreement between yourselves or with the help of a counselor without the need for a lawyer.  However, the downside to a parenting plan is that it is not enforceable in Court if you or your ex-partner do not follow the plan as agreed.

If you need help drawing up a parenting plan, head to Relationship Australia’s website at,au They have a downloadable booklet that is free, it covers how to make a parenting plan and the practical issues of parenting such as parenting style and the living arrangements of the Children.

Consent Orders

However, if you and your ex-partner prefer something more formal, consent orders are a better option. Like a parenting plan, consent orders is an agreement made between the parents which deals with the care arrangements for the children. However, the difference between a parenting plan and consent orders is that consent orders are filed in Court so they must be followed by the parents. In the event either parent breaches the orders, the aggrieved parent can make an application to the Gold Coast or Brisbane Court to have the Orders enforced.

Consent orders can be made and filed by separated parents of children at any time. If your case is in Court because you and your ex-partner cannot agree, once an agreement is reached consent orders can be filed. Orders can also be made on their own where no Court action has begun.  You and your ex-partner may simply wish to make your arrangement formal so you have certainty the agreement can be enforced.

Seeking legal advice to a Brisbane family lawyer before making application for consent orders is highly recommended. It is important to know exactly what you are agreeing to because if you don’t follow the consent orders you are breaking the law. The Court will enforce the orders and may issue you a penalty. Also, once made, changing orders could be difficult if both parties don’t agree.

Whether a parenting plan or consent orders are appropriate varies. Each family is unique, and what is right for one family, may not be right for another.  However, if certainty is important to you and your ex-partner, consent orders are the better option given a remedy is available to either parent if the orders are not followed.

We offer a fixed fee at Collective Family Law Group in Brisbane or Gold Coast for parents wishing to enter into consent orders. If you have reached an amicable agreement and you are ready to finalise it with Consent Orders, we offer fixed fee Consent Orders. Phone us for a free appointment to get your Orders started.

Listen to the Podcast here.