Family Law...What is the Parent Information Program (PIP) and do I have to attend?

Laura Kanann – January 2017

Many clients find themselves scheduled to attend the court’s Parent Information Program. I often get questions about whether PIP is mandatory, and what is involved.

What is PIP

The Parent Information Program (PIP) is a child-centered information session that focuses on the effects of conflict on children. Participants will learn to identify the causes of conflict, and learn new skills to manage it.

PIP is for anyone who is interested in learning more about how to assist children through difficult times. This could include parents, step-parents and grandparents or people who provide parenting to a child. Some of these participants may have recently separated, while others may have never parented from the same home.

All PIP sessions follow the same format. The sessions are three hours long. During that time, participants will hear from a judge, receive information from the program’s facilitators, and watch videos that demonstrate and compare effective and damaging communication styles with children.

The topics covered by facilitators include: the effects of separation and conflict on children and families, options for resolving disputes, effective communication, parenting arrangements and child support.

PIP is typically facilitated by one mental health professional and one legal professional, although this may vary. The facilitators follow the same script during every PIP session. This ensures that each party in a court application receives the same information. They are not permitted to answer questions about your specific situation, nor will they provide any type of advice.

Is it mandatory?

PIP is mandatory for those involved in a court application that involves a child or children. You will receive notice of your scheduled PIP session. It will not be scheduled on the same date as the other parties in your application. Upon completion of your PIP session, the facilitator fills out a certificate. This certificate is placed in your court file. You will also receive a copy of your certificate.

It is important not to miss your scheduled PIP session. The court expects all parties to attend PIP, and Judges and other court staff will review  the court file to confirm that parties have completed the program.  Failure to attend may affect your ability to get a court date. If you cannot attend your scheduled session, you should contact the coordinator to reschedule.

Participants can also voluntarily attend PIP if they simply want information about how to assist their children through a separation or other difficult times.

How to get the most out of your PIP session

  1. Go into your PIP session with an open mind. Even if you feel the other party/parties involved are the root of the conflict, you can still learn tools and strategies to manage the conflict in your situation. Pay attention to the messages in the material, and participate in the session dialogue.
  1. Ask Questions. The facilitators are typically experienced professionals. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask them questions about the material. Also, if you are fortunate enough to have a judge attend your session in person, this could be a great opportunity to ask a judge questions about the court process before you are required to attend court. Most judges will allow a question period for general questions. However, the judges and facilitators will not give legal advice, nor will they comment on your specific circumstances.
  1. Take advantage of the resources available at PIP. When attending PIP, you will have access to a wealth of handouts and information about family law, the court process and other family law topics. Regardless of where are you in the process, this is information is invaluable. I usually encourage PIP attendees to take a few moments to peruse the handouts during the break or at the end of the session.
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