“I just wanted to let you know that I attended the first PTS session last night and thoroughly enjoyed seeing it in action. I was impressed by the authenticity of the facilitators (it was not just a reading out of MoJ information – far from it!) and they were able to quickly engage the participants who were willing and comfortable to involve themselves in discussions.
I was impressed at the way the facilitators modeled positive language (eg not using ex wife, but my daughter's parent) and throughout the discussions with participants, kept bringing them back to the children’s needs and perspectives. It was a heartfelt reminder to me about just how “raw” people are after a separation, how motivated they are to do the best for their children and how they do need to receive information and education to move ahead as parents.”
PTS should be the starting point for any client discussions about parenting issues, unless safety or urgency considerations demand otherwise – and then only the pre/post application timing of enrollment should be in question. Repeal of s.8 of the Family Proceedings Act 1980 in the 2013 reforms, does not lessen our duty to promote conciliation of parenting disputes. S.7B COCA does not say otherwise. The s.9 counseling requests that were a routine part of practice for most of my time in the Family Court are no longer an available resource but PTS is. I can say without hesitation that in Hawke's Bay it is both accessible and effective. In Napier and Hastings each month both 4 hour daytime and 2 x 2 hour evening sessions are offered. The feedback is consistently positive. I expect the same is true in other centers as well.
Birthright HB Child and Family Care is the current PTS Provider for Waipukurau through to Wairoa. I and some other local practitioners get to deliver 1 hour of the 4 hour programme, talking about parenting disputes, FDR, Family Court and COCA. For this article I prepared an outline of what those sessions involve so you know what your clients are being told. Then I came across an email I sent to a colleague recently who was to deliver the programme. It seemed to me that the e-mail summed it up.
“I usually cover:-
Law that applies
I start with guardianship v care arrangements - 'cos that seems to be something people don't get - always try and frame it around the child's right to have all guardians involved in important decisions. Who are guardians and additional guardians? Try to mention testamentary guardianship as well.
I try to emphasise that there are no "standard" arrangements for care (people used to think it was kids with Mum and with Dad every second weekend and now that it's week about but neither of those beliefs is true.....).
Law says that kids have a bunch of rights. The job of parents and the Courts if parents can't, is to have an honest look at the parents' and kids' circumstances and try and figure out what arrangements are practical and respect those rights as much as possible. I try to emphasis that it is not about making the kids fit into some "template" arrangement.
3 channels proceedings about children can go down - ie. urgency/ safety or simple track- straight to Court - everything else has to start with FDR.
I explain that the parts of FDR that have to be done before the Court can be asked for help are PTS and Mediation. Also mention the 2 other parts of FDR - FLAS and "coaching".
I normally talk a bit about the mediation process - my spin on it is that Court is shaped like this > "your story gets squished down onto the least number of issues for the judge to decide", mediation is shaped like this < opportunity to sort out whatever needs to be, for parents to be able to get on with their job.
I often also talk about Court being a disempowering process – “you'll be told what part of your story is relevant and how to tell it and your power as parents is taken away because the judge decides what happens for your kids” - the aim of mediation is to empower parents to get to the place where they can sort it themselves. I sometimes also talk a bit about power in mediation ie. you have absolute power in the sense that there can be no outcome you don't agree with - but no power in the sense that you can't make the other parent do anything they choose not to - so its about asking and figuring out out how to make it easier for the other parent to agree.
I note the expectation that they start the process themselves (with FLAS) and roughly outline it ie. application/affidavit – service/ response- coming before Judge to decide what the issues are and what information is needed. Judge might appoint a lawyer for the children and will decide when and if parents can have lawyers representing them. Talk a bit about the role of lawyer for child and the costs, where a child's views fit into the process. Cover the possibility of social work or psychologist reports.
I often talk a bit about how it is important that they “own” the Court process ie. listen hard to advice but make sure they understand what is going on, ask if they don't and instruct the lawyer - not the other way around.
Usually I get distracted by interesting/ challenging questions and forget (or run out of time) to cover a heap of the stuff but often there is more learning from a really good real life discussion than a talking heads session I reckon.