As the divorce peak reaches its annual high in the early months of the year, you may want to know what courts actually do about living arrangements for your children. You might, for instance, be sent on a Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP) – but if you’re dreading yet more argument, cost and conflict, Frances Place explains this is the last place you’ll find it…
Separated Parent Information Programme
If you are separating or divorcing and you have made an application to the court to sort out living arrangements for your children the court may have ordered you to attend a Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP). You may feel reluctant to attend. You may want to know more what is involved.
Attending a SPIP will give you the opportunity to meet other people in conflict with their ex-partners over arrangements for the children and give you the opportunity to hear from two experienced trainers, often mediators, about the impact of divorce and separation on children and to discuss ideas to help reduce conflict and improve communication between you and your ex-partner. Research has shown the separation doesn't have to harm children if it is handled well; it is conflict that has a negative effect.
You will watch a DVD made by children that follows a family through a separation. The film focuses on what children feel as their parents separate and what they need from their parents.
There are discussions and tips on how you can try and communicate better with your former partner, even if they are being very difficult and do not seem to be cooperating. There are discussions about the emotional aspects of divorce and separation, tips on helping you look after yourself and on how you can move forward, putting the past behind you.
Parents are sometimes reluctant to attend but most parents who do attend find it a very helpful experience.
Putting the past conflict as a couple behind you isn't always easy; talking to other parents in similar situations and hearing from experienced trainers can sometimes help give you ideas on how to move forward and find ways of working together as separated parents.
Amongst other things, you will learn that:
1. You should try not to fight in front of the children or ask them to choose sides.
2. Your children may have different feelings to yours.
3. You should think about what you can do, not what your ex-partner should or shouldn't do.
4. You should focus on what has worked, not on what hasn't worked.
5. Small steps can lead to big changes.
6. Look after yourself and be the best parent you can.
So if you are ordered to attend a SPIP don't be negative or try and avoid going; you will hopefully find it a useful and informative day.
Frances Place is a qualified solicitor and partner in a family mediation service.