Parenting Orders and Plans

The purpose of a parenting plan is to determine a somewhat predictable and consistent residential schedule for your children between two homes. It can include topics such as:
  • Sharing holidays and special dates

  • Travel and vacations

  • Extended family and friends

  • Schedule changes

  • Making important decisions

  • Expenses

  • Communicating with kids when away

Whilst it is not legally enforceable, it serves the purpose of reducing conflict by clarifying the understanding (therefore the expectation) between parents.

Avoid stress, arguments and provide stability for your children with a parenting plan.

Avoid stress, arguments and provide stability for your children with a parenting plan.

If you want the plan to be legally binding, you’ll need a court to review and issue a court order making the plan binding within what is known as a parenting order.

There is no required format for a parenting plan.

Making a parenting plan is cheaper and less stressful than going to court for a parenting order.

Community-based family support services that offer dispute resolution can help parents make a parenting plan to suit the particular family circumstances.

You can find further guidance and an example of a parenting plan that you can complete yourself on the Relationships Australia website here, or use the button below.

Print off this template then complete the various sections as guided.


What is the difference between a Parenting Order and Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written agreement between the parents of separated or divorced children. The plan outlines how each parent will be involved in their child’s life, such as who the primary carer is, when and where they can spend time with the child, etc. This agreement must be made in the best interest of the child. It is not legally binding and can be changed if there are changes to the child’s circumstances.

On the other hand, a parenting order is a legally binding court order that outlines how each parent will be involved in their child’s life. This could include orders related to parental responsibility, living arrangements and time spent with the child. The orders must comply with the Family Law Act 1975, which governs family law matters in Australia. These orders cannot be changed unless both parents agree or they apply for a variation through the court system. If either parent breaches a parenting order, they may face fines or imprisonment.

When separating or divorcing in Australia, it is vital to understand the difference between a parenting plan and a parenting order. Depending on the situation, parents may be able to use a parenting plan or may need to apply for a parenting order through the court system. If you are unsure about either of these documents and their implications, it is crucial to seek legal advice. It is also important to remember that the child’s best interest must always be a priority.


– Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

– Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS): Parenting plans and parenting orders

Note: This content should not be used as legal advice but only as general information about parenting plans and parenting orders in Australia for separated or divorced parents. It is recommended to seek professional legal advice before making decisions regarding parenting plans or parenting orders.


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