I have previously discussed the different ways of co-parenting children when parents separate. In this article, I am going to discuss a course which promotes co-parenting; the Planning Together for Children course.
What is the Planning Together for Children course
This is a course run by Cafcass (via Action for Children) which supports parents, enabling them to think of ways to put the needs of their children first and parent the children together when they are in the process of separating and/or living apart. It is designed to encourage parents to work together and think about how they can communicate and work together for the children.
Unfortunately, they are only accessible once court proceedings have started. A parent can be referred to attend a Parenting Together for Children course by the family court advisor or they can be ordered to attend by the court as part of the court process, which usually takes place at the first hearing (FHDRA hearing).
The Planning Together for Children course is made up of three parts:
This takes place on the online Planning Together for Children Parent Hub and must be completed in a parents own time.
The e-learning course includes topics such as:
- What happens if I go to court?
- How the way we handle our separation affects our child.
- Conflict and its impact on children.
- Putting myself in my child’s shoes.
- What can I and my co-parent do differently to support our child?
- How can I listen and communicate better to help my child?
- Tips to help me remember how to listen, talk and communicate in the future.
- What am I going to do next?
2. Group workshop
This part of the course usually takes place online and the parents attend separate groups. There are usually six in a group. Parents are expected to join in the conversation and activities that help them think about putting their child’s needs first. The group workshop covers:
- separation and the negative impact of parental conflict on children, and
- how to best manage conflict and improve communication for child-centred parenting, the parenting plan and next steps.
3. The Parenting Plan
As parents work your way through Planning Together for Children, they will be introduced to the idea of creating an online parenting plan. I have discussed parenting plans in my previous article.
What the parents have learnt at the Planning Together for Children course can be used to try to complete a parenting plan together online. The parenting plan is interactive and encourages them reaching agreement together. It prompts the parents to consider topics such as agreeing what time they each spend with their child, educational and health decisions, pocket money, pets etc.
If agreement is reached, this is recorded on the Planning Together for Children Parent Hub. The court and legal representatives can then be informed.
The Planning Together for Children courses have achieved success for parents at an early stage of the court proceedings, which then brings the court process to an end. It is unfortunate that they are only offered to parents once proceedings have been issued, but hopefully that will change in the future so that all separated parents can utilise them.
I have written other articles which discuss the options available for separated parents to enable them to co-parent: