We’ve agreed – what are our options now?
It is important to document or formalise your agreement so that both parties are clear on what is to happen with children and finances. The interests of the child should be at the forefront of your thinking where children are involved.
Going to court can be expensive, time consuming and emotionally challenging for all concerned when separating. You can develop and formalise an agreement without needing to go to court.
For matters involving children, you can create a Parenting plan that outlines both your intentions. Often it will include the decisions about the parenting responsibilities shared by the both of you, which you have agreed and decided upon. It is not a legal document however it can be helpful for both parents to have structure that clarifies the roles and responsibilities each of them will have with their children. Often, separating parents will use family dispute resolution to reach an agreement to help avoid court costs and prolonged proceedings.
If you would like a legally enforceable contract between the two of you, you will to have to go to court to make an application for a consent order.
Please seek legal advice for your individual circumstances.
A parenting plan is an informal arrangement that parents work out the practical arrangements such as roles and responsibilities – this can include contact between their children and each other. The agreement usually covers important events for the children such as birthdays, schooling arrangements, and how communication looks like for long-term decisions relating to their children.
A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out the daily arrangements relating to the child and how each parent will share these responsibilities. However, it is not a legally enforceable agreement.
There is no required format for a parenting plan.
Making a parenting plan is cheaper and less stressful than going to court for a parenting order (link is external).
Community-based family support services that offer dispute resolution can help parents make a parenting plan to suit the particular family circumstances. Some family support services have examples of parenting plans that may help parents.
For financial matters, you can create a financial agreement. Your financial agreement will be a legally valid contract between the two of you. In some circumstances, a court may be able to set aside the orders. Unlike a parenting plan, you must seek legal advice from a lawyer if you would like to develop a financial agreement.
It is important to begin to think about how you can sort out your finances between yourselves as soon as possible after you both decide to separate, as time limits apply. Often, separating couples will use Property mediation to work out how they will divide and share their money and property.
For couples who have created their financial agreement, they can proceed to have their agreements made into consent orders can be made by the court for certainty.
Agreeing on money and finances
When people separate (whether from a marriage or a de facto relationship), they usually need to sort out how to divide their property and debts.
One person may also need financial support from the other, either for themselves in the form of spousal or de facto maintenance (which can arise out of both a marriage or a de facto relationship), or for their child or children, in the form of child support or child maintenance.
There are ways you can make arrangements to divide your finances after separation: If you agree on arrangements, you can seek to formalise your agreement by applying for consent orders or making a financial agreement. If you cannot agree on some issues, you can use dispute resolution and mediation, such as Property mediation to help you resolve any issue in dispute.
A consent order is a formalisation of a parenting or property agreement by the court to make it a legally valid and legally enforceable document. A consent order can also be made by you to update, change an existing family law or parenting order. You can ask your lawyer to help you with this.
While not a requirement in the process, for many parents, having their agreements formalised can provide additional assurance and certainty, particularly if the agreement or dispute is complex.