Ashley Donald – January 2019
If you are the Applicant or Respondent in a matter before the Court that involves children, you have likely received (or will soon receive!) a bright pink sheet that instructs you to attend the Parent Information Program on a specified date and time.
What is it?
The Parent Information Program, lovingly dubbed “PIP”, is a three-hour mini seminar hosted at the Supreme Court Family Division in Halifax. It is facilitated by volunteers, usually court staff, local lawyers, or other members of the community that are involved in court processes. You will not be scheduled at the same session as the other party or parties!
The seminar is mandatory if you are instructed to attend by the court. If you do attend, a bright blue PIP certificate is placed in your Court File. The Judge handling your matter sees who has and has not completed the program. You may also attend PIP voluntarily, without direction by the Court, if you are interested in the program or feel it will help in managing your day to day relationships.
What does it cover?
Most importantly, PIP talks about how conflict affects families – especially children.
PIP’s goal is to help parents and guardians deal with conflict between them in a productive way that ensures children are removed from such conflict. PIP facilitators discuss many different topics ranging from how children get stuck in the middle of conflict to how children express stress to communication skills and tools you can use with the other party in your matter, or any relationship.
The program briefly discusses the options for resolving a dispute, whether is through negotiation, through the parties, counsel, or a judicial settlement conference, or through litigation (having the court decide).
PIP will also look at some general information about child support, custody, parenting plans, and what to do if your child refuses to go to a visit with the other parent.
What’s the process?
As mentioned, the court will provide you with a requirement to attend PIP if you are the Applicant or Respondent in a court proceeding that involves children.
PIP occurs at the courthouse on Devonshire Avenue in Halifax, unless otherwise noted on your pink sheet. Usually the program occurs on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, or Saturday morning.
When you arrive at the courthouse, you need to sign in with the Sheriff on duty and wait until the Sheriff takes you to the classroom.
You receive a fulsome handout that includes all the information (and more) that is discussed during the seminar. The facilitator has a script to review. This ensures everyone receives the same information.
Usually, one of the Judges will step in for a few brief moments to address the group at the beginning of the session. There is also a short break about half-way through the program for a coffee/smoke/washroom break.
Once the facilitator completes his or her script, you complete a short survey, receive your Certificate of Completion of the program, and you are good to go! A copy of the Certificate will be added to your court file, so the Judge that is handling your matter can see that you attended the program.
If you can’t attend the session you are scheduled for, you should contact the PIP coordinator at the court right away to reschedule. Judges do notice whether you have completed the program, so be sure to get it done if you are required.
Why would I go?
If the court has directed you to go to PIP, the judge handling your case will know whether or not you have attended. This in itself should be reason enough! If not, PIP is an informative program that will likely help you navigate the litigation process, including the conflict that often arises when litigation occurs.
If you take home two pieces of new information, a few new communication tools to use or even some knowledge of the court process, it is well worth your time.
If you have further questions about PIP, we encourage you to contact one of our MDW Law family lawyers.