Consent orders and parenting plans outline parenting arrangements between a separated or divorced couple. The major difference between the two is that a parenting plan is an informal agreement, while a consent order is a legally binding document. Choosing the right plan plays a critical role in streamlining parenting responsibilities, rights, permissions and other issues related to co-parenting. Therefore, consider the following factors when comparing the two options.
1. Nature of relationship between the parties
Parenting plans work best when there's a good relationship between the parents. If there is bad blood between the parties, it may be difficult to come to an amicable agreement. For example, hate and resentment can make it difficult for parties to draft a reasonable parenting plan. Issues such as domestic violence and spousal abuse may make it impossible to have an amicable agreement. Getting a consent order from the court is the only viable option.
2. Flow of communication
Is there good communication between you and our ex-partner? Are both parties willing to respect and uphold an unenforceable parenting agreement? The success of an informal arrangement relies on trust and a good flow of communication between the two parties.
If there's no open communication between you and your ex, it's advisable to get a consent order. Similarly, if one person is likely to stray from the agreement, go for an enforceable document. Breaching the terms of a court-enforced contract can attract sanctions from the court.
3. Unforeseeable circumstances in the future
Unforeseeable circumstances can strain co-parents and affect their ability to adhere to a parenting plan. For example, what happens if one party starts dating and the other parent isn't comfortable with their kids being around new people? The aggrieved parent may retaliate by denying the other party visitation rights.
What if the parent with full custody moves to another state and the other party disagrees with the arrangement? A consent order is legally binding; therefore, both parties have to adhere to the prescribed arrangement. If one party isn't comfortable, they can apply to alter the existing consent order.
4. Flexibility factor
One benefit of parenting plans is that they are flexible. Since they are informal agreements, you can amend them as needed. For example, if one party moves farther from the kids, you can alter visitation times to accommodate the change. You don't need to go to the courts to change the document.
You can only alter a consent order with the court's approval. However, if you don't wish to go through the tedious legal process, you can enter a new agreement through a parenting plan. A parenting plan written after an existing consent order supersedes the consent order. Therefore, if one party breaches the terms, the agreement won't be enforceable by law.
Consult a family lawyer before signing a consent order or parenting plan.