A Study into Parenting Apart
92 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2020
Date Written: December 2019
This document represents a final report in respect of research conducted by Bryan Clark and Gerry Keegan of the University for Newcastle University, Law School into ‘Parenting Apart’ services offered by Member Services affiliated to Relationships Scotland. The primary purpose of this study is to seek evidence on the effectiveness of Parenting Apart as an intervention for parents involved in legal separation or divorce. One particular aspect of the research is to analyse to what extent parents’ participation in Parenting Apart provides benefits for their subsequent or concurrent involvement in family mediation and to contribute more generally to the existing evidence on the potential utility of Parenting Apart. The project was funded by a small grant from Relationships Scotland and additional funding from the University of Newcastle and work was undertaken by the team broadly between the months of May and October 2019.
The research team would provide an independent analysis of existing survey data collected over a period of four years by Member Services affiliated to Relationships Scotland on their participants’ experiences with Parenting Apart. The survey instrument gauged information on parents’ views on a range of issues prior to engagement with, and participation in, the Parenting Apart course, with follow up responses sought some three to six months later to help gauge the lasting impact of the service. The survey also tracked the views of participants on their experiences within Parenting Apart immediately after their attendance at Parenting Apart sessions.
Furthermore, a new short survey was administered via Member Services to parents involved in separation or divorce who had participated in both Parenting Apart and family mediation to gauge, amongst other things, the extent to which they perceived involvement in the former held a benefit for their experiences in the latter. Semi-structured, telephone interviews were undertaken with some of those surveyed to explore their experiences in more depth and provide a richer insight into the potential benefits and limitations of Parenting Apart participation and parents’ experiences within it.
Finally, focus groups were undertaken with Parenting Apart facilitators to examine participants’ experiences of the process, and to explore their views on the potential value such may hold for others similarly involved in separation and divorce; as well as ascertaining how Parenting Apart impacts on consequent or concurrent family mediation that they as parents are involved in.
Key findings include:
• parents generally reported extremely positive experiences in Parenting Apart and there seems some evidence of positive follow-on impacts for consequent engagement in mediation.
• the survey research suggested some evidence of longer-term impacts in terms of improved parental attitudes and circumstances after 3-6 months. These findings were also reflected in many of the reported experiences of parents interviewed.
• Facilitators interviewed in the focus groups were very positive about Parenting Apart and viewed the process as a very useful precursor to mediation. There is significant correlation between their views as to the benefits of Parenting Apart and evidence gleaned from parents via the survey and interview data.
• The evidence suggests there may be some learning points for Relationships Scotland and Member Services around such issues as integrating Parenting Apart with the mediation process across the network, ensuring the value of legal intervention in some cases is emphasised consistently, the use of mediators who had also served as Parenting Apart facilitators if they have met with one parent and not the other, encouraging both parents to engage with support where appropriate whilst emphasising the voluntary nature of participation, and better disseminating the message about Parenting Apart to potential users.
• Further research could provide fuller insights into the longer-term impacts of Parenting Apart and its relationship with further interventions such as mediation.
Keywords: Family law, mediation, Parenting Apart, divorce, Scotland
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