Upon the breakdown of a relationship, it is usual for parties to
need to come to considered agreement about how it is that the
children in the relationship will be looked after. Often those
arrangements are recorded in a set of Court Orders, which are
binding upon the parties and can be enforced should they not be
However, Orders are not for everyone. They are often
prescriptive, and lock people into arrangements without the
flexibility that would otherwise be helpful in their dealings with
each other, and particularly for the children. Sometimes, Orders
are not required at all in circumstances where the parties get
along and are able to communicate effectively without there being
any document that indicates how the children should be cared
The middle ground is a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan does not
have the effect of orders, in that it cannot be enforced in a
Court. What it does is sets out in as much detail as the parties
may want how arrangements for the children should be
The benefit of a Parenting Plan is often that issues can be
included in a Parenting Plan that are generally not included in
Orders. Furthermore, it can include "mission statements",
or vague suggestion of how things should happen, without the need
to draft a provision in a Parenting Plan as if it was an Order that
is, with a view to how it would be enforced if it was not
My experience is that Parenting Plans are ideal for parties that
do not believe that the other party will ever make life difficult,
and that a degree of flexibility would be of benefit to the
children. It may include child support provisions (which orders
will generally not do) and it can be varied or revoked by further
written agreement (unlike orders, which will require there to be a
significant change in circumstances for a Court to interfere with
Family Law Solicitors are obliged under the Family Law Act to
inform parties of the existence of Parenting Plans and how it is
that they may be of assistance. The frames of the Family Law Act,
and Courts generally, believe that Parenting Plans are of
assistance insofar as they will ensure that the most minor of
issues which would otherwise clog up the Court system if brought
back before it can be dealt with sensibly and maturely with the
However, any time there is, for example, family violence, or
significant concerns about whether a party may deny the other party
time with their child, or otherwise abscond with a child, then
Court Orders are, in reality, the only way forward.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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