Planning Together for Children is the name of a course run by the organisation CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support) for separated or divorced parents.
In this blog, our children law solicitors look at the Planning Together for Children course and explain your options if you are a separated parent struggling to reach an agreement with your ex-partner on post-separation parenting arrangements for your children.
Planning Together for Children has replaced the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)
If your friends have told you that after they separated from their spouse, they went on a SPIP (or Separated Parents Information Programme) then you need to be aware that the Planning Together for Children has replaced the SPIP.
Can you use the Planning Together for Children resource?
Access to the Planning Together for Children resource is limited to those parents and carers who are ordered by a family court judge to attend the course or who are referred to the course by a Family Court Advisor in children law court proceedings.
You therefore cannot access the online E-learning resources or attend the Parenting Together for Children workshop if you are a separated parent who is looking for information to help you reach an agreement about the parenting arrangements for your children. Nor can you use the resource if you are struggling with sharing parenting responsibilities with your ex-partner but neither of you has applied to the court for a child arrangement order, prohibited steps order, specific issue order or relocation order.
Options if you cannot use the Planning Together for Children resource
If you want help in parenting together after separation there are a lot of useful books and online resources. If you need help with family dynamics speaking to a family therapist or counsellor may help as they may be able to assist you both in understanding the priorities of the other parent and help you focus on the best interests of your child when reaching a compromise about shared care, contact arrangements or parenting styles.
If you are struggling to reach an agreement about parenting after a separation or divorce you may not need to apply to court for a child arrangement order as you may be able to reach an agreement through:
- Solicitor round table meeting
- Solicitor negotiations
- Family mediation
Once you have reached an agreement it is a good idea to record what you have agreed in a parenting plan. These types of plans need to be reviewed as your child grows up or circumstances change. For example, if your child wants to go to football sessions on a Saturday or ballet on a Wednesday after school or if one parent has to move house out of the area because of a job move.
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A Planning Together for Children referral
If you are ordered by a judge to attend the Planning Together for Children course or a Family Court Advisor makes a request to the court for a referral there is no charge for accessing the online resources or going to the workshop.
Whilst you may not be a fan of e-learning or workshops it is important to try and get as much as possible from the course to give you the best shot possible of reaching an agreement with your ex-partner or being able to tell the family judge that you did so.
If you do not go to a Planning Together for Children course when ordered to do so by a judge the court may reorder your attendance on the course. This may delay your court application. Any delay or refusal to attend may make it less likely that the court will make the type of child arrangement order you are seeking.
What does the Planning Together for Children course cover?
The e-learning section of the course will look at matters such as:
- What happens if you go ahead with the child arrangement order or specific issue order court application?
- How a separation and how you handle the separation can affect your child
- Conflict and its impact on your child
- Looking at the family situation from your child’s perspective
- Supportive co-parenting – what it is and how it works
- Communication skills to help you listen to your child and co-parent
Once the e-learning section is completed you move on to a workshop. This will normally take place online. Although the workshop is normally held online there are never more than 6 parents in a workshop group. Your ex-partner will not be in the same workshop as you.
The workshop focuses on the negative impact of parental conflict on children, how best to manage conflict and how to improve communication with your child and ex-partner so you can effectively co-parent.
The course will encourage you to discuss and agree on a parenting plan for your child to set out the residence, contact and other important care details for your child to avoid the need for you or your ex-partner to go ahead with your child arrangement order application.
How can Evolve Family Law help you?
At Evolve Family Law all our family law solicitors are committed to resolving parenting disputes outside of court wherever possible. For example, through providing legal support during family mediation or helping you negotiate a parenting plan. Reaching an agreement is not always possible. For example, if you fear child abduction as your ex-partner has threatened to take your child overseas or if your ex-spouse is displaying alienating behaviour and refusing to let you see your child, or if you are concerned about contact arrangement because of a history of domestic violence.
Our family law solicitors will listen carefully to your needs and priorities and help you secure the agreement or court order you need for your children.