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What is a parenting plan?

Separations are already one of life’s most stressful events, but the stakes are even higher when children are involved.

There are three main types of agreements when it comes to the care of children after separation, explains Emma Mead of Burke and Mead Lawyers:

  • Parenting Plan
  • Consent Order
  • Parenting Order.

People will often refer to these various documents as a Custody Plan, but they are used in different circumstances and have different legal effects.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is a written agreement to set up parenting arrangements for the children.
It is like a diary, setting out who will see the children on each day. This is often done at the point of separation.
The plan is developed and agreed upon jointly. That means you and your partner don’t need to go to Court if you reach an agreement.
Note: A Parenting Plan is not a legally enforceable agreement. It is different from a Parenting Order, which is made by a Court.

What is a Consent Order?

A Consent Order is a written agreement that is approved by a Court, based on an agreement that you have made together.

It can cover parenting arrangements for children, as well as financial arrangements such as property and maintenance.

It has the same legal effect as if it had been made by a judicial officer after a Court hearing.

What is a Parenting Order?

A Parenting Order is a Court-authorised document. That means it is legally binding.

It is usually a decision made by the Court when parents can’t decide. Courts impose this order on each party. This document is usually issued at the settlement stage.

In all circumstances, the Court must be satisfied that any orders you ask for are in the best interest of the children.

Note: any person concerned with the care, welfare and development of a child can apply for Parenting Orders.


The Separation Guide aims to make separation and divorce simpler, more manageable and less stressful. To find out more about how one of our Network Members could support your separation, take our free 3-minute Q&A.

The information in our resources is general only. Consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need support with your legal, financial or wellbeing needs.