Family & Divorce Law

Planning Together for Children

Many parents who are splitting up find it difficult to focus on their children’s needs because of ongoing difficulties in their relationship with one another.

02 May 2023

Team name
Sally Ward

Sally Ward

Feelings and reactions to separation make it difficult to communicate about their children because they are under stress.

With no clear way of resolving this conflict, parents often end up going to Court. Court proceedings can make the conflict worse by making the parents take sides. New government initiatives are being introduced in a move away from this and to support the early resolution of family law matters.

One of those initiatives is the Planning Together for Children course. It replaces the SPIP (Separated Parents Information Programme) which was introduced in 2006. The Planning Together for Children course puts the emphasis on working together rather than separation.

The course is free of charge but parents can only attend if there is a court application. The course will not be suitable for all parents so Cafcass or the Court will need to make a referral. This can be before the first court hearing, at the first hearing or at any later stage in the court case.

There are 3 stages to the course:

  • Self-directed e-learning 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.
  • A workshop with other parents for more learning and discussion. These workshops are usually delivered online but can be in person if needed. They cover topics such as understanding the impact of conflict on children, how separation affects children, and communicating in positive ways with each other.
  • an interactive online parenting plan. The plan encourages agreement over sharing the care and support of children. Parents are encouraged to share the plan in a way that is understandable to the children.

It encourages parents to think about their children first while working out how they can parent together when separating or living apart. It is aimed at protecting children against some of the harmful effects of parental conflict.

M&P Commentary

Sally Ward, Head of our Family team said:

“By the time disputes over children get to court parents are often very entrenched, their emotions spiral out of control and their children’s best interests get forgotten. Being able to refer parents to the Planning Together for Children course right at the beginning of a court application should encourage parents to focus on their children and avoid court hearings which will keep their costs down.”

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