Cafcass recently announced the launch of their new parenting course, Planning Together for Children which has replaced the previous Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP). The new course and resources provided by Cafcass aims to encourage separating parents to focus on the needs of their children.
Under an application to the Court for any matters concerning children, the Judge’s first consideration is always the child’s welfare. The Planning Together for Children course promotes this, offering guidance to parents so that have their children best interests at the forefront of their mind when making important decisions about their children such as what time should be spent with each parent.
Parties will receive from Cafcass a welcome letter together with instructions. The course is made up of a number of three different stages:
This part will usually take around two hours to complete and must be completed within 10 days of receiving the initial welcome letter from Cafcass.
The modules will focus on understanding and managing emotions, looking at things from your child’s point of view, how conflict and separation has an impact on your child, what might happen if the matters progresses at Court and guidance on co-parenting.
This again will usually take place online and takes two and a half hours. The group session will only be with a handful of other parents and you will not be placed in the same group as your ex-partner. You will be encouraged to join in in conversations and discussions. There will be some activities which will cover similar topics to the online e-learning including conflict.
You will be encouraged to complete an online parenting plan to help make arrangements for your children. The plan is interactive and will act as a working document with your ex-partner where by you can both propose ideas with the aim of reaching an agreement as to what time you should each spend with your children and other important matters such as education or health decisions. You will also be encouraged to share a child focused and understandable version of the plan with your children.
At the commencement of proceedings a Cafcass officer may refer you to the Planning Together for Children course if they feel that this may be beneficial, dependent on the circumstances of your case. This will usually be in a case where there are no safeguarding concerns.
The Court also has the power to order parties to undertake the course if Cafcass agrees that is it suitable.
The Court can make a further order requiring you to partake in the course. There may be consequences if you do not follow the Court’s Order.
There are no costs to take part in the Planning Together for Children course, however, a referral does need to be made by Cafcass or the Court.
The Planning Together for Children course helps to reduce the level of conflict between parents by focusing them on their children’s needs. Focusing on the needs of the children can help with reducing the need for lengthy Court proceedings by assisting with reaching a resolution earlier. Lengthy Court proceedings will result in increased legal costs and can be very stressful which overtime can add to an already fractious relationship. If parties follow through with what they have learnt on the course then this can reduce the need for any further applications to the Court in the future.
It can be extremely difficult for parents who are separated to agree arrangements directly between themselves. All too often parents become too involved in the conflict that the focus moves away the children. We know that sometimes it is necessary to make an application to the Court, however, there are benefits to everyone involved especially the children, whereby the parents are able to communicate and work together. There are going to be a number of important milestones in your children’s life such as proms, graduation or weddings where it will be a lot easier for your children if the relationship between you and your ex-partner is an amicable one.
If you require any assistance with matters concerning your child whether you have recently separated and are looking for some initial advice or are already within court proceedings. We have a large team of specialist family solicitors who will be able to offer you assistance.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Jade Mercer, Solicitor in the Family team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of MaY 2023.