Parenting arrangements – are they legally binding?

Separating couples who have children together have a legal requirement to provide for their children, making sure that their interests are looked after. Some people choose to use a family lawyer to resolve custody disputes, especially if a separation is nasty or on unfriendly terms.

On the other hand, a lot of parents come to informal parenting plans and arrangements. These might be in the form of documents that are signed and dated or verbal agreements. The important thing to realise is that many parenting arrangements aren’t always legally binding.

In this article we’ll explore the formalities surrounding parenting arrangements, when they are legally binding, when they aren’t and the things you can do to protect yourself and your children.

Are Written Agreements Legally Binding?

In truth, informal written parenting agreements aren’t usually legally binding – even if they’re complete in the presence of a family lawyer or other legal professional. However, they do have the benefit of helping separated parents move on with their lives.

On the other hand, problems can arise if one parent decides that they don’t want to continue to follow the agreement. They can effectively do what they want, potentially disrupting both the lives of both the other parent and the children in question.

One of the best things to do is to make sure that your parenting agreements are formalised by the courts. A family lawyer will be able to guide you on the process of doing this.

Consider A Consent Order

One of the best ways to make sure that your parenting agreements are legally binding, and enforceable, is to turn them into consent orders. To do this, you have to file for a consent order with a family court – again, a decent lawyer will be able to help you do this.

If both parties agree on the terms of the order then the process is very simple. You probably won’t even have to go to court. However, things are different if the two parents don’t agree on some of the points. In cases like this, court hearings will be required.

What Happens If A Consent Order Is Breached?

If one of the parties involved in a consent order breaches the terms of the order then the other party can file a contravention application. Doing this let’s the court impose penalties, enforce the order or change the terms of the order.

Although it might seem hard – and even a bit pointless – applying for a consent order, it’s definitely worth considering. If you and the other parent in question don’t agree about something in the future, then having a legally binding document there will make things a lot easier.

Final Word

Although parenting agreements can make life easier after a separation, they aren’t legally binding. If you’re looking for a legally binding document to help you and your former partner move forward and take good care of your children, consider speaking to a family lawyer about getting a consent order.