When you separate and have children who are under 18 arrangements will need to be made about who the children will live with, what time they will spend with the other parent, and how important decisions are made about major issues for the children such as where they will go to school.
If you are able to negotiate and reach an agreement with the other parent but don’t write anything down or sign anything this is called an ‘informal parenting agreement’. There are no requirements for you to have a formal agreement about the arrangements for the children, however you need to be aware that you can’t make the other parent stick to an informal agreement if they later change their mind.
Except in some special circumstances if you can’t agree on what are the best arrangements for your children you will need to participate in mediation. Mediation is an opportunity for you discuss any concerns that you have, and also what you think will work best for the children. This will occur with the other parent and with the assistance of a mediator who has special training in these matters.
Some types of mediation will let you have a lawyer attend with you, and other types you will need to attend on your own.
If you reach agreement at mediation this can be made into a formal agreement in two ways, either as a parenting plan or a consent order. A parenting plan must be written, signed by both parents and dated. A parenting plan does not create a legal obligation, however a Court is required to consider a parenting plan if you have Court proceedings at a later stage. A consent order is an order made by the Court the same as if you had appeared before a Judge. This Order creates a legal obligation on both parties and there are consequences if you do not follow what the Order says.
Parenting agreements and Orders do not only apply to parents of the children. Grandparents, family members and any other person who is a significant person in the life of a child may can also commence the process to ensure a relationship with, or the safety and responsibility for children.
There is no ‘cookie cutter’ or ‘one size fits all’ approach to parenting arrangements, and each family and its circumstances are unique. Our firm specialises in family law and our experience and expertise can assist you with navigating the complex situation from before you separate, through the mediation process, and if required through the Court process to assist you to obtain the best results for your children.