Planning Together for Children vs SPIP, What’s Changed?

2023 has brought with it a focus on transforming the Family Court experience. The Ministry of Justice white paper onSupporting the Earlier Resolution of Private Family Law Arrangements’ has outlined a trajectory to reduce the number of private law applications and place emphasis on less contentious methods to agree post-separation children arrangements. The focus on more collaborative approaches to children arrangements for separated parents, extends to those already in proceedings.

De-escalating conflict in private children proceedings is of course not new. Separated parents that have been through the family courts may be familiar with the Separated Parenting Information Programme, known as (SPIP).  SPIP was implemented in 2009 and saw around 24,000 parents referred to it each year.

However, parents and family lawyers will be aware of the limitations of SPIP. The course was delivered as a 4-hour programme and once completed, the momentum to implement its teachings could easily fade. Although the course was a mandatory requirement if directed, there was little example of parents being held to account for refusing to engage.

In line with the clear government and court agenda to diffuse hostility in children proceedings, it is fitting that SPIP has been selected for transformation.  CAFCASS replaced the popular programme in April 2023 with the ‘Planning Together for Children’ programme. The programme will now be delivered in three stages.

  • Stage 1:  Self-directed e-learning modules
  • Stage 2: Group workshop
  • Stage 3: Supplementary Online parenting plan

The programme appears to have been designed to take parents through a process of learning and skills development that should result in a solidified plan. Unlike SPIP, parents are required to engage for a longer, steadily distributed timeframe. This should strengthen momentum and the likelihood of parents implementing the teachings in the longer term. The input from a multitude of stakeholders is holistic and will ensure topics and modules are designed with a rich and diverse expertise and perspective, to assist parents navigate their parenting roles post separation.

The new programme promises to be outcome focused and increase prospects of successful collaboration between parents with an interactive, easy to follow plan.

‘Planning Together’ is in its infancy and, inevitably, will not be a fix-all solution. However, it is certainly an enhancement and compliments the overall agenda of a reduction in contentious arrangements for children and separated parents.

A system that promotes neutrality and respect will surely be welcomed by parents, professionals and ultimately the children.

For anyone considering issuing Court proceedings or if you are experiencing difficulties with the arrangements for your children and you don’t know what your options are, it’s important that you seek legal advice. Contact Siobhan McCallum at