If you and another relevant person (usually the other parent of your child (or children)) have reached an agreement about arrangements for a child, you do not need to go to court, however you should formally document your agreement, to make sure that you each understand what you have agreed, and to help you to avoid any disputes or misunderstandings in the future.
There are two ways you can document your agreement in accordance with the Family Law Act 1975:
- consent orders, and
- a parenting plan.
Parenting orders are orders made by a court about children, in accordance with Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975. Consent orders are orders that you and the other party agree on.
TIP: If you have also agreed on arrangements for a child, you can apply for consent parenting and financial orders together in the same application. See Financial – We have agreed for more information about financial orders.
Consent orders are legally binding
Even though consent orders are made by agreement, and can be made without a hearing, they are still orders of the Court and are legally binding.
When a parenting order is made, each party to the order must follow it. Contravening (breaching) an order can have serious consequences, including imprisonment in extreme cases. For more information see Compliance and enforcement.
Orders can only be changed in limited circumstances
Once final parenting orders are made, including consent orders, there are only limited circumstances in which they can be changed in the future. For more information see Changing parenting arrangements.
How do we apply for consent orders?
You should seek legal advice before entering into consent orders.
You and the other party can apply for consent orders to be made without going to court, by filing:
- an Application for consent orders, and
- a copy of the proposed consent orders.
For information about filing requirements and a step-by-step guide to applying for consent orders see How do I apply for consent orders?
A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out parenting arrangements for a child or children. The plan is worked out and agreed jointly. You and the other parent do not need to go to court to enter into a parenting plan. However, you should seek legal advice before entering into a parenting plan.
Unless a court orders otherwise, you and the other parent can agree to change a parenting order by entering into a parenting plan. For more information see Changing parenting arrangements.
A parenting plan is not a legally enforceable agreement. It is different from a parenting order, which is made by a court.
For more information, see Parenting Plans on the Family Relationships Online website.