Family Court of Western Australia

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans are written agreements which are signed by both parents, and set out the agreed parenting arrangements. The plan outlines each parent's responsibilities and rights, and makes a plan in the best interests of your child, including promoting their safety.

If your relationship with the other parent is amicable, a parenting plan is often the best option. Because it has been worked about and agreed to without the Court's involvement, it means separating parents do not need to fight this out in court. Many people find them useful as a record of the agreement that has been reached and their plans for the future. Community-based counselling or support services can help with making a parenting plan that suits your family circumstances.

Parenting plans can also be made more cheaply and with less formality than parenting orders. The plan is worked out and agreed with your former partner, and you do not need to go to court. But unlike parenting orders or consent orders, a parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement.

A parenting plan can deal with any aspect of the care, welfare and development of a child. The types of issues that may be covered in the plan include:

  • who a child will live with
  • the time a child will spend with each parent
  • the time a child will spend with other people, such as grandparents
  • how the parents will share parental responsibility, such as deciding on schools
  • how a child will communicate with the other parent or other people
  • arrangements for special days such as birthdays and holidays
  • processes to change the plan or resolve any disagreements about it
  • any other issues the parents want to include.

What does a parenting plan do?

In simple terms:

  • a parenting plan records an agreement between the parents of a child, signed and dated, which deals with matters such as parental responsibility and arrangements for children
  • other people can also be involved in a parenting plan - eg where children are living with or spending time with grandparents
  • if it is in the best interest of the child, the court will consider the parenting plan when looking to make parenting orders.
  • because it is voluntary, it can be changed at any time so long as both parents agree to the change
  • a parenting plan must be made free from any threat, duress or coercion

Although their terms cannot be enforced, parenting plans can be considered by the Court if you eventually apply for parenting orders. You can also agree that court orders can be changed with a parenting plan. Knowing you are not required to go back to court to change a parenting order might make it easier for you to agree on arrangements.

Next steps

You can contact the find out more about the services to help you make a parenting plan by visiting the Family Relationships Online site or calling the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321.

There are Family Relationship Centres across WA which focus on helping separating families to come to workable parenting arrangements outside the court system, and many of their services are free of charge.

Last updated: 16-Apr-2024

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