Separated Parents Information Programme
Please note: the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) is currently being delivered remotely only.
The Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) is a course which helps you understand how to put your children first while you are separating, even though you may be in dispute with your child’s other parent or carer. The course helps parents learn the fundamental principles of how to manage conflict and difficulties – including how to put this in practice.
You will not attend the same session as your ex-partner. In some areas it is free to attend – you can contact your local provider for more information.
The Separated Parents Information Programme encourages you to take steps for yourselves; this may include developing agreements that do not need court intervention.
The Programme will give you ideas and signpost ways in which you can get help outside court. The majority of parents that go on the course find it very helpful.
If you wish to attend SPIP in Wales (where the equivalent is Working Together for Children) you should contact Cafcass Cymru: [email protected].
Being ordered to attend by the court
If you do decide to make an application to court, one of the options available to the court at the first hearing is to direct the parents to attend a SPIP. Courts have the power, by making a court order, to ‘direct’ parents to attend a programme aimed at promoting safe contact with children. Cafcass is usually asked to advise the court if it is suitable for you.
You can be ordered to go to a SPIP (there is no charge for those with Cafcass cases to attend) and/or to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Referral by Cafcass
You may also be referred to attend SPIP by your Cafcass officer so that you can attend more quickly, especially if there is some waiting time before your first hearing. There is no charge to attend if you are referred by Cafcass.
It is voluntary to attend if you are referred by Cafcass rather than ordered to attend by the Court. However, you are encouraged to participate if your Cafcass officer makes the referral for you as the course can help you to put your children first and prepare for the legal process. The Court may ask you about your attendance at your first hearing and can order you to attend at a later date.
Frequently asked questions about the Separated Parents Information Programme
What does the Separated Programme Information Programme involve?
It is usually delivered to mixed groups of parents in one four-hour session, or sometimes, in two, two-hour sessions.
Separated couples do not go on the same course, but it is important that both parents attend a court.
It looks at working as separated parents in the best interests for your children.
Parent communication – you will be asked to think about prepared scenarios from other viewpoints. You will also see and try out some methods that can help both parents react better to stress in practical ways.
Emotions – you will look at the emotional effect of separation and being separated parents and the options for moving forward.
Can I do a Separated Parent Information Programme without going to court?
Yes. There are a number of benefits from attending a SPIP early, and you do not have to have an order from the court. It can be quite a complex and expensive process to apply to court, and at the moment there are delays in family cases getting to court. Going to court also can put you ‘against’ your co-parent, just at the time you need to be working together. Attending a SPIP can help you reach an agreement with your co-parent so that you don’t need to go to court at all.
If you are working with a lawyer, or a mediator, going to a SPIP without going to court can really help to make progress, and you can talk to them about it. It is best if both parents attend a SPIP: you will never attend the same session as your co-parent, but it is still good for one parent to attend, the other can always attend later.
How to go to a Separated Parent Information Programme without going to court?
You can find your local SPIP provider here. You can send them an e-mail or phone to find out more about the cost and the next available dates.
SPIP providers do charge for attending the programme. It costs each parent around £100, but providers might offer a lower price if you have a low income. SPIP programmes are delivered at times that are convenient for people with work or caring responsibilities. Also, parents who have been to a SPIP before going to court have told us how helpful it has been in understanding the needs of their children.
Keep in mind an application to court costs £215, and legal advice can cost £110 – £410 per hour – there is no legal aid for this. You’ll also need to take time off work to go to court.
If you do go to court, they can order you to attend a free SPIP as part of court proceedings, but this does not happen for every family.
Who provides the Separated Parent Information Programme?
All the organisations that provide SPIP are working in partnership with Cafcass. They work to standards for safety, data protection, and feedback that match those of Cafcass and have appropriate accreditations with organisations that verify those standards. They are continuing to deliver online during the pandemic.
Views from parents
“The delivery of the course was excellent, and I would recommend it to any parent going through separation regardless of whether they get along or not, as it would certainly prevent any issues that may arise.”
“Extremely useful, shame I didn’t attend two years ago at the start of everything. Nevertheless, this has been a timely reminder for me. Thank you!”
“The session was great – most importantly it focused on the children’s emotional wellbeing.”
“The course focuses the awareness toward the child and helps to identify that conflict is ultimately not in their best interests.”
“The information provided was fantastic, it was good to see what pathways can be used and hear other people’s situations.”