Parenting Plans and Consent Orders
Today we are going to talk about parenting plans and consent orders. You have probably heard both terms various times and you may be wondering what the difference is.
What are they?
Firstly a parenting plan is an agreement made between the parents. It concerns matters relating to the children, it is in writing, dated and signed. If you have all of these elements covered then you have a parenting plan. If it misses any of these elements then it is simply a parenting agreement. A consent order on the other hand is an order that has been made by the Court. Consent however implies that it has been made with both parties agreeing to the terms of that order; as opposed to an order that has been made by a Judge following a trial. A consent order and a court order are exactly the same thing, they have the same power as each other it just depends on whether it was made with you agreeing to the terms or whether it was made by a judge.
What are the differences?
If there are the differences between parenting plans and consent orders then how does this impact what type of agreement you come up with? An order (whether it be by consent or not) is enforceable by the Court. So if one party is not complying with the order you can commence contravention proceedings if that is an appropriate step. If you have a parenting plan however you can’t commence contravention proceedings – because it is not an order the Court cannot enforce it. You can commence parenting proceedings to have your parenting plan made into an order (it may not turn out the way you expected) but nonetheless it is another avenue available to you.
Having said this if you have a court order and you need to change an aspect of it and you draft this change into a parenting plan then that parenting plan will trump the Court Order (or at least the components that it relates to). If you have a court order we would always warn you against updating it with a parenting plan unless you know it is a long-lasting change. If it is just a short-term change to meet current circumstances then always try to avoid putting it into a parenting plan. At the end of the day though you do need to go and speak to a Solicitor for independent legal advice to discuss what you need to change and whether this should be done by either changing the consent orders completely, updating it by way of parenting plan or simply doing a heads of agreement.