Ruth Hawkins, Founding Partner

Help for separating parents in the Court Process

Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP

Until recently, parents who could not reach agreement on their child or children’s arrangements, and who were involved in the court process, could find themselves referred by CAFCASS onto a SPIP Course – or Separated Parents Information Programme.

Recently this has been replaced by a new course, the Planning Together for Children course.

The intention behind it is to support parents to think about the needs of their children first when they are working out how they can parent together.

The course works to support parents to think carefully about what is in the children’s best interests and to do their best to work together to protect their children against some of the harmful effects of parental conflict.

The course will work on improving communication skills between separated parents, in the hope that further court hearings can be avoided and that co-parenting can be improved.

Unlike the SPIP, which was a one-off 4-hour course, there are three stages to Planning Together for Children.

The first stage is for participants to complete a set of e-learning modules. The e-learning focuses on topics such as what happens if parents go to court, understanding and managing emotion, how separation affects children, and looking at things from a child’s point of view.

Once complete, participants go onto the second stage, a group workshop. This is with up to five others and offers the opportunity for further learning and discussion. Topics covered include understanding the impact of conflict on children, how separation affects children, and communicating in positive ways with each other.

Finally, the course introduces participants to an online parenting plan – a tool to encourage agreement over how parents will share the care of their children, with the intention that a Parenting Plan can be agreed.

In addition to these three stages, some participants will receive a follow-up phone call with a trainer up to six weeks after the group workshop; this is to see how things have gone. The provider will follow-up with up to 25% of participants, so this not something that everyone will receive, and parents have the option to opt-out of the phone call.

The Course is being run by charity Action for Children.

The course will be recommended when the Court or CAFCASS have no safeguarding or child protection concerns.

The court can refer parents/carers to Planning Together for Children by ordering attendance through a court order.  A CAFCASS officer can also make a referral.

This does sound like a great opportunity to avoid so much conflict, and to promote better practise for separating parents. It is only available to those in the Court arena.  If you are separating or separated, please think very carefully about alternatives to Court. Mediation can be much more effective in promoting a child focussed approach to separation and co-parenting.

Please contact our team for further information.

Ruth HawkinsPartner

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Articles by Ruth Hawkins