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Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service, has developed a new and improved Parenting Plan, an interactive tool to help parents (and other family members) following separation to parent co-operatively and safely.
According to Cafcass, the plan leads parents towards making practical decisions about parenting and resolving disputes in a way that retains focus on their child. Child safety and security is central to the revised plan which looks to halt the escalation of disagreements and potential courtroom battles which serve to negatively affect the child.
The plan covers practical issues of parenting, such as: living arrangements, finances, holidays and sporting activities, health and emotional care, and can help to clarify the arrangements needed to put in place. It also contains strategies for improved communication after separation. It differs from other mediation tools in that it can be completed individually or with both parents working through the plan together, and is now also available as an interactive tool - accessible online (a Word version is available to download below). Its adaptability and accessibility means it can develop with the child and as circumstances change.
Anthony Douglas, Cafcass' Chief Executive said:
'Resolving a dispute about the arrangements for your child after separation, when emotions are running high, can be hard to do, which is why Cafcass, working with our partners, has developed the Parenting Plan.
It builds on the previous version, which has been incredibly popular with mediators and solicitors, and is intended to help any parent, whatever their situation, develop better communications skills, to improve understanding of their child's needs and equip parents to build a sustainable and adaptable plan.'
The Parenting Plan is as an extremely useful tool widely recognised within the courts as a valuable method of resolution. The new version complements the current suite of out of court services which aim to divert cases from reaching the court where safe to do so - as outlined in the Family Justice Review. Its completion is likely to be expected, should parents find themselves in court over child arrangements, and aligns with the new legislation outlined in the forthcoming Children and Families Bill which recently received Royal Assent and will be enacted next month. Parenting Plans are referenced in the proposed Child Arrangements Programme.
Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families and former Family Law specialist, said:
'Wherever possible, the Government wants to help parents resolve disputes about children in a positive way, without turning to the courts. I very much welcome this new plan, which is a real step forwards in giving parents the support and guidance they may need to do just that.
The Department for Education has worked closely with Cafcass over the years, leading in policy terms on issues around the parenting plan and to highlight the importance attached by Government to helping parents resolve their disputes out of court. This plan is a great outcome of this partnership, helping parents to focus on the needs of their child.'
From 1 April 2014, sponsorship of Cafcass will be transferred to the Ministry of Justice.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP, said:
'When people separate we want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children, by avoiding confrontational court battles and using other options when they are suitable. The Cafcass Parenting Plan is another crucial tool in making that happen.
We have also changed the law so that from next month separating couples will have to consider mediation as an alternative to stressful court cases.'
The Parenting Plan Word version is available to download here.
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