16 Mar Mandatory Information Sessions for Children
I have been asked multiple times to present at the Mandatory Information Sessions for parents in the province of Ontario. These sessions are described on the Attorney General of Ontario’s website:
Mandatory Information Programs (MIPs) are available at family court locations across Ontario. MIPs provide attendees with information about separation/divorce and the legal process, including:
- The effects of separation and divorce on adults and children
- Alternatives to litigation
- Family law issues
- The Family Court process
- Local resources and programs for families facing separation and/or divorce
If either spouse/parent has started a family court case, both spouses/parents must attend the MIP as the first step in the case. There are some exceptions to this rule including:
- Parties in cases that are proceeding on consent (where both parties agree to the order that is being requested)
- Parties in cases in which the only claims made are for a divorce, costs, or an order incorporating the terms of an agreement or prior court order
- Parties who have already attended a mandatory information program
If you are not involved in a family court case, you can contact the family mediation and information service provider in your area to arrange to attend a MIP.
While the purpose of mandating such attendance at an information program was to make parents aware of process and to provide information to avoid litigation where possible, there is often significant information missing. Perhaps more to the point, there are key people missing that need to receive information. Children.
In the province of Ontario, and many other international jurisdictions, mental health and family law professionals have worked tirelessly to keep children out of family court proceedings. The goal has always been to minimize exposure to conflict and to protect children from the ugliness of separation and divorce proceedings.
The unfortunate outcome is that children receive information from the same adults who are going through the emotional business of separation and divorce. How might children benefit from receiving information about the process from an emotionally neutral, informed, and third party professional? We have acknowledged the value of adults receiving this information. In fact, processing the information provided at these MIPS can deter litigation right at the beginning for some families. Nevertheless, children should be afforded the same benefit of information and resources as they fall victims to their parents litigation and conflict.
Children could participate in their own MIP and be provided with information about:
- Separation and Divorce
- Grieving the loss of their family
- Adjusting to two homes
- Defining decision making and access
- Coping with potential conflict
- Resources for them to receive support
I have always been an advocate of keeping children out of litigious processes and allowing them to focus on being a child. As a professional, I also assume the role of advocate for children so that their parents and other decision makers consider what is in a child’s best interest. It is from this perspective that I will be working to develop a MIP for children so that they are not forgotten in this process and that they become a “mandatory” consideration.