15 April 2015 Tips for making parenting arrangements

By Melanie Rubin

In Brief

Separating parents know that they need to make arrangements for their children as to where and when they will live with each parent. This was formally known as custody and access.  We now talk about where the children will live and who they will spend time with.  

I find that parents are fearful of losing the relationship with their children that they enjoyed prior to their separation. However, if parents seek the appropriate help and make proper arrangements together, the children will feel more secure in knowing where and when they are meant to be with each parent.  The sooner the parents are able to make these arrangements the more beneficial it is to the children in providing for their security.

Parents can either set up a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders. A Parenting Plan is not a legally enforceable document and lawyers often prefer parents to enter into Consent Orders. It is possible, if agreement is reached, for Consent Orders to be entered into without either party attending at court.  When those Orders are made they have the same legal force as if they had been made by a Judge after a hearing. It is in the parent's best interest to obtain legal advice on the effect of the proposed Orders.

There are certain requirements the Parenting Plan must comply with in order to be considered a Parenting Plan under the Family Law Act. It needs to be made free of threat, coercion and duress, be in writing, dated and signed by both parents.

If parents cannot reach an agreement, they are able to go to court to apply for Orders to be made. Many parents find that they are not happy with Orders made by the court. It is my recommendation for parents to negotiate arrangements that suit them, if possible, rather than having a court imposed order.

I recommend that parents do the following:

  • speak directly to their former spouse to negotiate an agreement that works for them, or
  • if they are unable to do this, then either meet with a mediator who will be able to assist in the resolution of the matter, or retain a lawyer who is collaboratively trained or focuses on settlement of issues.

Whether you discuss the arrangements directly with your former spouse, meet with a mediator or meet with a lawyer, I always suggest to my clients that, to prepare for the meeting, they:

  • obtain a year planner and note down any days that are important to their family including birthdays, grandparents' birthdays, religious events, Father's day, Mother's day and any celebrations that are celebrated by the family.  This will help you define what needs to be discussed
  • prepare a list of the children's extra-curricular commitments, including what is involved in getting them to and collecting them from those activities, and
  • make notes of school arrangements, including how the children get to school, school times etc, taking into account each party's work commitments.

The Parenting Plan or Consent Orders can cover issues such as the children's education, living arrangements, how the parents wish to parent the children, issues involving religion, education, health care and considering the general wellbeing of the children.

When setting up a Parenting Plan or Consent Orders, make sure they are simple and practical.  The plan should be easy to understand and outline what is expected of each party.

Always ensure parental conflicts are reduced and do not take place in front of the children.  I cannot stress the importance of parents not discussing children's affairs and arrangements or any other issues that have occurred at changeover in front of the children, particularly if you do not communicate well. It is better to email or set up a time to speak to the other parent in relation to those issues.   

Parents have to think about the effect that their separation is having on the children and consider that when planning further. It may be that the children need a period of transition whilst you make their new home as familiar as possible with photos and toys. Changeovers should be as natural and friendly as possible.  Most importantly do not commit to arrangements that you are unable to stick to as this will cause disruption in your arrangements and negotiations of any other issues.

I wish you all the best in negotiating parenting arrangements.  Remember they are your children and you and your former spouse know what's best for them, also considering their idiosyncrasies.  Therefore, parents are the best people to make parenting arrangements, not a Judge who will never even have met your children!

For further information, please contact our family law team.

If you would like to republish this article, it is generally approved, but prior to doing so please contact the Marketing team at

This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

Back to publications

Back to Family Law
Association Memberships
Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation
  • 2018 - Recommended Doyles Guide
  • 2018 - Recommended Doyles Guide
  • 2018 - Recommended Doyles Guide