Why develop a parenting plan?
One of the biggest complaints that co-parents have about their child’s other parent is uncertainty. Often expectations that one parent have are different to those of the other parent.
This difference in expectations causes problems in the co-parenting relationship, frustration and all too often anger that can escalate into family violence.
The repeated text messages, abusive emails and phone calls that create such distress could often be avoided by establishing and sticking to some simple rules about how you will treat each other and share the most important job you will ever have. The support, care and love you share for your child.
A parenting plan is a document that you both agree to that outlines how you will share the care of a child and sometimes how you will treat each other while doing that. To be classed as a parenting plan it must be written, signed and dated.
How to develop a parenting plan
You can get together over a coffee and work out a plan but for many people that is just too hard to do without some assistance. The reality is that separation can be painful for everyone involved and meeting up with a former partner when you are still upset or angry can be difficult. You may say things you later regret or they might causing you to feel frightened or sad.
A plan to parent
Think back to the love you felt the first time you held your child in your arms.
You may have been feeling awed by the reality of the brand new life that you had brought into the world.
You may have made a vow to yourself that you would do anything you can to nurture and support your child. If you are like most of us you may not have always lived up to your hopes for yourself but now is a time to refocus and really think about what is best for your child.
Who can make a parenting plan?
Parenting plans and family law
What can you include in a parenting plan?
- how the parents will share parental responsibility and consult about decisions (like which school the child will attend and medical decisions)
- who the child will live with
- what time the child will spend with each parent
- what time the child will spend with other people, such as grandparents
- how the child will communicate with each parent or other people (eg by phone, email or video calls)
- what arrangements need to be made for special days, such as birthdays and holidays
- what process can be used to change the plan or resolve any disagreements about the plan
- what arrangements can be made for disruptions to normal routine, such as student free days or when your child is sick
- who will pay the necessary expenses for the child such as schooling and extra activities as well as day to day expences necessary to maintain the child. Child support and maintenance have some special rules under the Family Law Act 1975, Centrelink and Child Support Agency. and
- any other issue about parental responsibility or the care, welfare and development of the child.
Can I include other things in my parenting plan?
Parenting plans, child support and Centrelink
More Information about Child Support and Income Support
- Child Support on 131 272 or visitwww.humanservices.gov.au/customer/dhs/child-support
- Centrelink (Families and Parents Line) on 136 150 or visitwww.humanservices.gov.au/customer/themes/families
Other things to think about when developing your plan
How to resolve disputes about the terms of your plan or changes to the plan
- Having a clause in your parenting plan that identifies how any disagreements about the parenting plan can be resolved is highly recommended.
- Being aware that sometimes plans need to be varied due to changes in your life or the life of the other parent such as a new job, the desire to move houses or one or both of you forming a new relationship. All of these things and more will require an adjustment to your parenting and that should flow on to an adjustment to your parenting plan.
- You may find it useful to include procedures in your plan for varying the plan at points in your child’s life that you know will bring changes such as when your child starts primary or secondary school
Best interests of the child
Under family law when making decisions about a child their needs must come first and so the most important thing for you to consider is what is best for your child.
Children have the right to know both their parents and the right to be protected from harm. However, the safety of the child must come first when considering your child’s best interest.
If there has been family violence in the past thinking about how this may impact the child’s care and shared parenting is very important. Other things you might want to think about include any views the child has expressed (although realise that they may have told each of you different things), the child’s relationship with both of you and other people significant to them such as their grandparents but also friends and any practical difficulties.
Equal shared parental responsibility
What does ‘reasonably practicable’ mean?
- how far apart you and the other parent live from each other
- the ability of you and the other parent to implement this type of arrangement e.g what hours you work and how close do live to the child’s school
- how well you and the other parent communicate with each other and can resolve any problems that come up with the arrangement, and
- the impact the arrangement will have on your child.