Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)
The Separated Parents Information Programme, often referred to as SPIP, is a course for parents, grandparents and carers who are experiencing communication issues about children, usually with another family members, such as a parent or ex-partner. All SPIP providers work in partnership with CAFCASS, which stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.
The course is designed to help people reflect on their child related communications and to see if there is a different approach which could be taken. It also focuses how to best support your children during an often-difficult time.
The course generally runs for four hours in one day. It is most common for participants on the course to have been ordered to attend by the family court. When the court orders you to attend a SPIP, it is provided free of charge. If you have not been ordered to attend a SPIP by a Court, or referred to a SPIP by CAFCASS, then you can still attend, but you will need to pay a fee.
It is hoped that on the course you will learn how to manage conflict and to find a new way forward. The course focuses on your child or children and considers separation from their perspective. You will be provided with resources, signposting and the opportunity to reflect on your separation and communications. People who attend the course often give very positive feedback, as they gain fresh perspectives and mechanisms as to how to move forward.
What does the SPIP course involve?
The SPIP course is a safe place designed to provide you with an opportunity to develop your knowledge and understanding of the separation process. It covers 3 key modules:
- Your children
- Your communication
- Your emotions
Through your learning, you will learn more about your own separation journey and reflect on your communications and think about how to act in the best interests of your children.
As mentioned, the SPIP course runs for one four-hour session. Usually the SPIP course is delivered online, so you can do this from the comfort of your home. The session includes a presentation from a qualified SPIP trainer, as well as various tasks and exercises, which will engage you and allow you to reflect on your current parenting and communications and to look to the future.
It is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers on the SPIP course and so there is no pass or fail. It is not school, but an opportunity to reflect and maybe consider new approaches to old problems.
You will never attend the same SPIP course as your separated partner. The groups are usually small, no more than 10 participants and it is a mix of mums, dads, grandparents, carers etc.
During the SPIP course, you will gain access to a number of resources and be able to ask questions to the trainers about how to deal with separation, communications and your children.
Everything shared during the SPIP course is confidential, so you can share your experiences, thoughts and feelings in full confidence.
Is SPIP right for me?
The course itself is incredibly useful in supporting parents, grandparents and carers, who are experiencing a separation and have children involved. It can be really helpful for people who struggle to focus on their children due to high emotional conflict. It is not unusual for family members to find that their emotions, such as anger, grief, sadness, loss can impact the children. SPIP is about recognising this and moving forward to a secure co-parenting future for your children.
It is important to remember that SPIP is not a course about how to be a parent. Rather, SPIP is a course that focuses on communications and develop your understanding on what your children may be going through at this time.
Do I have to attend a SPIP?
Where you have been ordered by the Court to attend a SPIP course, you should attend as it is a legal requirement.
In other circumstances, attending SPIP is not a requirement, however, it is strongly encouraged. You do not need the court to make an order to attend SPIP. You can book privately as a client.
Accessing SPIP early on in your separation journey can have a number of profound benefits. Separating parents or individual family members usually find the course really useful in moving toward better co-parenting and also reaching agreements for the future.
Some people choose to go on the SPIP course whilst also engaging in mediation, as it complements the process as a whole. The focus in mediation is always your children and their best interests. The learning during your SPIP course will enable you to strengthen this focus and reach agreements that keep your children at the centre of the separation journey.
How much does SPIP cost?
Where ordered by the court, you will not need to pay for SPIP. Though remember that you will have paid court fees prior to this – the cost of an application to the court for child arrangements is £215, and that does not include any legal fees!
The cost to attend a SPIP course without a court order is around £120. Parents, grandparents and family members, who reach agreements through both mediation and SPIP find that their overall fees are far less than what they would have been using the courts.
SPIP and family mediation
As mentioned above, attending SPIP either before or during mediation can really help the process. The content of the SPIP course looks at your emotions, your communication, and your children. It also looks at the separation process as a whole including financial and child arrangements, which are inevitably issues that you will be discussing at mediation.
The learning on the course itself will complement the mediation process and perhaps even reduce the number of sessions you need to attend. Remember that family mediation is about reaching positive agreements in the best interests of your children, which is exactly what SPIP is about.
What happens after SPIP?
Once you complete the course, you will be provided with a certificate that shows that you have attended. This certificate can be shown to your mediator, your lawyer or to the court to evidence that you have attended SPIP.
If you do end up at court, which is of course a last resort, you will be able to evidence to the court that you have taken steps to reach agreement and deal with conflict before making your court application. Some people take the SPIP course before court proceedings, so as not to slow the process down. If you would like support making an application to Court for child arrangements, you could use the Family Court Application Service (FCAS).You can read more about FCAS and what they do here.
Please note, however, that any of your discussions or responses will not be shared with the court. The court will only be aware of your attendance. The only exception to this is if there are any safeguarding concerns.
However, the most important thing following attending SPIP is that hopefully you complete the course feeling more confident in your separation journey. You should be more understanding of your emotions and the emotions associated with separation. You should also be able to see separation through the eyes of your children and also feel prepared to move forward to successful co-parenting.
One of the best things about attending SPIP is that you will meet other separated parents, grandparents and carers in the same position as you. Through sharing experiences and advice, people attending SPIP usually feel much better than when they first arrived.
Want to known more about SPIP or family mediation?
You can call Direct Mediation Services on 0113 4689593, email [email protected] or complete the form below for a free call back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to attend the SPIP course in person?
Not necessarily. At the moment, due to Covid, many SPIP providers are delivering the four hour training course via Zoom.
What will a SPIP course cost me?
If you are ordered to attend a SPIP course via the court, then the course will be free. This also applies if you have been referred by CAFCASS. If you decide to refer yourself, the cost is usually around £120.
Who can attend a SPIP?
Usually, separating or divorcing parents attend the SPIP course, but grandparents and carers can also attend.
How long does the SPIP course take?
The course usually takes about four hours. Many providers do it in a one four-hour block, however, some do it in two, two-hour sessions.
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