Parenting Post-Separation Programmes
Many parents are having problems maintaining contact with their children. In the past, these parents have found that the options open to them are both limited and expensive to pursue.
An answer in some cases may be for the court to be put in place a Contact Activity Direction. A Contact Activity Direction is when a parent takes part in an activity which is designed to either establish, maintain or improve contact. A contact activity can only be put in place as a court order or direction.The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration for the court when deciding whether to make such a direction.
A typical Contact Activity Direction may require one or both parents to attend programmes, classes with the underlying objective of getting contact to work for all concerned.
Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) (England Only)
The Courts are currently quite active in directing parents to a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP). The evidence has shown that parents get a lot out of this course.
You might assume this is like parenting classes where you are told how to raise your children but this is not true at all. The course is 4 hours long, usually delivered in two parts, often a week or so apart. Each group consists of several parents but you are never put on the same course as your ex-partner. You are given lots of information on how children cope with separation, tips to help them, ways of communicating with an ex- partner when conflict is high and information on how you can access other support depending on the situation. You are not made to share any information you don’t want to, so it’s quite informal and intended to be very supportive. You will also be given information about family mediation as often this is a next step.
Read more about the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)
Working Together For Children (WT4C) (Wales only)
The WT4C helps parents (in some cases grand or step-parents) that are applying to the courts for divorce; separation or contact with children. It is focused on co-parenting after separation. The needs of children are central to the course. WT4C is a 4 hour programme which looks at the emotional and parenting aspects of separation. Parents will not attend the course together, but rather will be separately referred.
Indeed, the goal running throughout WT4C is to get separated parents working together in the best interests of their children. So you’ll be informed about the impact of conflict on children and about the ways in which children are often (unintentionally) placed in the middle of parents’ disagreements.
Time is spent looking at ways of improving communication with children and ex-partners. Finally parents consider the emotional aspects of separation and loss. They consider how they can move forward and identify their sources of support, including family mediation. The WT4C is helpful because it encourages both parents to see things from the child’s perspective, to listen and reflect, and to communicate and manage conflict more effectively with their ex-partner.
Many parents that attend the WT4C courses are apprehensive about coming, but their experiance of the course is generally positive and felt that the course was helpful.
Read more about the Working Together for Children (WT4C)
The Courts recognise that parents are generally best placed to know what is in their children's interests and are encouraging parents to work this out together, with the assistance of a qualified mediator. Courts might decide to direct parents to a separated parenting programme as outlined above alongside a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). They acknowledge that mediation is not suitable in every case but for the vast majority it represents an opportunity for you to find a solution that fits best with your family’s circumstances.
Since April 2011, anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown has had to comply with the Pre-Application Protocol. This requires you to attend a meeting to learn about mediation – a Mediation Information Meeting (MIAM).
Legal aid is no longer widely available for divorce proceedings although if you are seeing a mediator and are legally aided you will be entitled to Help with Mediation if you instruct a solicitor who undertakes Family Legal Aid work.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.