What to consider in your parenting plan

If you decide to make your parenting plan, you'll have a number of different arrangements to think aboutThe Making a Parenting Plan workbook can help you make your decisions.

On this page:

What you'll find in the Making a Parenting Plan workbook

Your parenting plan workbook helps you and your ex-partner work out how you'll both take care of your children after you separate. It's designed to help you focus on the needs of your children and arrange for them to have enough time and contact with both you and your ex-partner. It helps you to map out and agree on day-to-day care (custody) and contact (access) arrangements.

Arrangements for day-to-day care and contact

Families are all different when it comes to childcare arrangements that will work best for them. Here are some tips to help you in planning for the future:

  • Put your children’s emotional needs first.
  • Ask your children what they think about the arrangements.
  • Talk to each child alone about what they want and need.
  • Remember, your children need a strong relationship with both you and your ex-partner – try to make arrangements that allow this to happen.
  • Understand that your children’s sense of time is different from your own – a child under six years old finds a week is a long time.
  • Carefully plan changeovers in day-to-day childcare. If you find these times cause arguments or problems, you could:
    • ask friends to do the changeovers at their house so you don't have to see your ex-partner, or
    • arrange to drop your child off at school or daycare and have your ex-partner pick them up afterwards.
  • Work out what’s practical and realistic for your family. Then write down the access arrangements you've agreed on and stick to them.

Special occasions and events

Alongside the day-to-day care arrangements, you need to plan for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, and school and sports events. These events can be difficult when a family breaks up, but they're also very important for children. They should get easier as time goes by.

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Getting on with your ex-partner

What to do

  • Stick to the agreed custody arrangements for the sake of your children.
  • Get your ex-partner's agreement before you make any changes to the arrangements.
  • An emergency is the only time you can make changes without your ex-partner’s agreement. Also, be understanding if your ex-partner has to do this. You may be in the same situation in the future.
  • If you change access arrangements with your ex-partner to suit yourself, tell your children yourself. Don’t leave it to your ex-partner to explain it to the children.
  • Keep your ex-partner up to date with how to contact you in emergencies
  • Cooperate with your ex-partner and be fair about access.
  • Be kind and supportive of each other when it comes to working out issues around your children.

What NOT to do

  • Don't keep fighting, especially in front of your children.
  • Don't use your children to find out about your ex-partner’s life.
  • Don't ask your children to pass on messages to your ex-partner.
  • Don't say unkind things about your ex-partner in front of the children.

Getting on with your children

What to do:

  • Stick to the agreed arrangements – otherwise your children will be disappointed and it creates uncertainty for them.
  • Tell your children what the plans are.
  • Make your children your first priority when it’s your turn to have them.
  • Do the normal things parents do, like monitoring and supporting your children, and doing as much everyday stuff as possible.
  • Have fun with your children – leave your work until later.
  • Look for free, fun activities.
  • Keep communication open with your children.
  • Tell your children often that you love them.

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Other things to consider when making a parenting plan

You have a lot to consider when planning your new arrangements, including:

Getting a Consent Order

If you and your ex-partner both want to, you can get the Family Court to make your private agreement or parenting plan into a Consent Order. This means that if one person breaks the agreement, you can get the court to enforce it.