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As the number of family-related court filings has risen over the years, families have increasingly relied on the courts to resolve divorce issues and problems including child custody, visitation, child support, paternity, emergency protective orders, and restraining orders.
As a result, courts have found that parental conflict related to divorce is a societal concern because children suffer potential short-term and long-term detrimental economic, emotional, and educational effects during times of family transition due to divorce. To address this concern, many courts have decided to mandate parent education classes.
Seventeen states require ALL divorcing parents, regardless if the divorce is uncontested, to attend some form of parent education class:
Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia require ALL parents filing a contested divorce to attend a parent education class.
The rest of the states either leave it up to the judge's discretion or only mandate parent education classes in certain counties or judicial districts.
|State||Parenting Class Requirement|
|Alabama||Mandatory in Calhoun County.|
|Alaska||Mandatory. Parties must watch a video at the court or online OR take an online class.|
Alaska Court System:
Parent Education Requirements
Fees: Video is free at the court, or can be viewed online for $10. Online class is $39.95 for 30 day access.
|Arizona||Mandatory. Arizona has minimum standards that the Parent Education Program must meet: Minimum Standards|
Fees: Not to exceed $50
|Arkansas||At judge's discretion.|
|California||Depends on the court. For court ordered parenting classes, an on-line class is usually not accepted unless specifically ordered. You must take they type of class ordered by the judge.|
Fees: Typically $40-$60
|Colorado||Some courts require the parties to attend a Children and Families in Transition Seminar (CFIT), which are usually three hour sessions designed to help parents understand what their children are going through during a divorce.|
Colorado Judicial Branch:
Fees: $40.00 per person.
|Connecticut||Mandatory for parents in a divorce case with children under age of 18.|
Connecticut Parenting Education Programs
Fees: $125.00 per person
|Delaware||Mandatory for all parents in divorce cases with children under the age of 18. Parent education programs are a 6-8 hour course to help parents cope with a divorce or separation.|
Parent Education Programs - Delaware FAQ and list of approved seminars
Fees: Each program sets its own fee, but the fee may not be more than $100 per parent.
|District of Columbia||At judge's discretion.|
|Florida||Mandatory. All parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor children or a paternity action that involves issues of parental responsibility shall be required to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment.|
Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course Providers - Listing of local and online FL course providers
Fees: Program providers must charge a "reasonable" fee. Typically, costs range from $18.00 to $39.00 per person.
|Georgia||At judge's discretion.|
|Hawaii||Mandatory. All divorcing parents and their children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend the Kids First program and view the video entitled "The Purple Family."|
Fees: Typically no fee.
|Idaho||Mandatory for all parents with child custody issues before the court are ordered to attend the Focus on the Children classes.|
Fees: $20 each parent.
|Illinois||Illinois requires parents to attend a parenting education class before the judge decides a divorce. This class teaches parents ways that they can act to avoid hurting their children during the divorce.
Both parents must take this class within 60 days after the first meeting with the judge. The course is at least four hours long.|
Fees: Varies by program.
|Indiana||At judge's discretion.|
|Iowa||At judge's discretion.|
|Kansas||At judge's discretion.|
|Kentucky||At judge's discretion, but more than half of Kentucky's 56 judicial circuits have some form of Divorce/Parent Education that is mandated by the local circuit courts.|
|Louisiana||At judges discretion.|
|Maine||At judge's discretion.|
|Maryland||Some circuit courts require all parties in contested family cases involving children to attend these classes. A co-parenting class may discuss: how divorce impacts children and parents emotionally; changes in the parent-child relationship; transitions between households; communicating with children and with the other party; problem-solving, decision-making; and other topics.|
|Massachusetts||Mandatory. All divorcing parents with children under the age of 18 must take a parent education class.|
Parent Education Programs - Providers listed by county
Fees: Vary depending on provider.
|Michigan||Most counties require divorcing parents with children under the age of 18 to attend a two hour Start Making It Liveable for Everyone (SMILE) program.|
Fees: Free of charge.
|Minnesota||Mandatory for parents who have children together and who are getting divorced must attend a divorce education program if they have contested custody or parenting time issues.|
Check your district court website for a list of approved divorce classes.
Fees: Vary depending upon provider.
|Mississippi||Only required in 16th District.|
|Missouri||All parents in a dissolution of marriage, legal separation or paternity action in which there are minor children (17 years and younger) are required to attend a Parent Educational Program.
Petitioner shall attend within 45 days of the filing of the original petition and Respondent shall attend within 45 days after service of process. Parents may attend the court-sponsored program or any program approved by the Administrative Family Court Judge.|
Fees: Free if you attend a program in your county. $30 per parent if attending a class in another county.
|Montana||At judge's discretion.|
|Nebraska||Mandatory for parents filing a contested divorce.|
Parenting Education Classes - List of provider classes
Fees: Vary depending on provider.
|Nevada||Required in some counties.|
|New Hampshire||Mandatory. All parents filing for divorce with minor children must attend a four hour child impact seminar called "Children First."|
Fees: $85.00 per person.
|New Jersey||A Parent's Education Program is mandatory for parents filing for divorce.|
Fees: $25.00 per person.
|New Mexico||At judge's discretion.|
|New York||At judge's discretion.|
Parent's Handbook - New York State Parent Education and Awareness Program (includes list of providers)
Fees: Vary by program provider, but cannot exceed $100 per person.
|North Carolina||Only required in the 12th District.|
|North Dakota||At judge's discretion.|
|Ohio||Mandatory only in certain counties.|
|Oklahoma||As of November 1, 2014, all divorcing parents on the grounds of "incompatibility" with minor children must attend parent education classes.
Judges will decide how many hours are required and whether couples take the course separately or together.|
Fees: Vary depending on provider, but typically range from $15 to $60 per person.
|Oregon||Mandatory only in certain counties.|
|Pennsylvania||Mandatory only in certain counties.|
|Rhode Island||At judge's discretion.|
|South Carolina||At judge's discretion.|
|South Dakota||Required only in certain counties.|
|Tennessee||Mandatory. All parties filing for divorce with minor children must attend a four hour seminar on the impact of divorce on children.|
Fees: Vary depending on program provider.
|Texas||At judge's discretion.|
|Utah||Mandatory for parents in a divorce case. The court will not issue a decree until both parties have completed the course requirements and have presented a certificate of course completion to the court.
You should complete the courses as soon as possible but no later than 60 days after filing the petition if you are the petitioner, or, if you are the respondent, no later than 30 days after being served with notice of the course requirements.|
Mandatory Education in Divorce - Information including course dates and times
Fees: The fee for the divorce orientation course is $30 per person. However, the fee for the divorce orientation class will be discounted $15 for a petitioner who attends a live class within 30 days of filing the petition, and will be discounted $15 for a respondent who attends a live class within 30 days of being served with the petition. The fee for the online course will not be discounted. The fee for the divorce education course is $35 per person. The fees for the live courses are paid to the person teaching the class.
|Vermont||At judge's discretion.|
|Virginia||Mandatory for parents with children who have contested divorces. The court may require the parties to attend a parent education seminar or program in uncontested cases only if the court finds good cause.
The seminar or other program shall be a minimum of 4 hours in length and shall address the effects of separation or divorce on children, parenting responsibilities, options for conflict resolution and financial responsibilities.|
Parent education providers for circuit court cases can be found at: Parent Education Providers for Circuit Courts
Parent education providers for juvenile and domestic relations district courts can be found at: Parent Education Providers for Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts
Fees: The fee charged per party for participation in such program shall be based on the party's ability to pay; however, no fee in excess of $50 may be charged.
|Washington||Mandatory. Both parties must attend a Parenting Seminar. The court may waive the seminar requirement for one
or both parents in any case for good cause shown.|
Fees: Vary per location.
|West Virginia||Mandatory for divorcing parents with children. Parent education may be waived if the court places on the record a finding attendance is not necessary, and states the specific reasons for the finding.|
Fees: Vary per program provider.
|Wisconsin||Mandatory. Both parties must attend a parenting class before the divorce will be granted.|
Fees: Vary per program provider.
|Wyoming||At judge's discretion.|
Researchers at Arizona State University developed a parent education program called "New Beginnings" in 1992 and monitored the effects for 20 years. They found that divorcing parents who participated in the program saw significant benefits for their children six years later, including:
In a fifteen-year follow-up, the researchers found that the program actually prevented depression in children, who were now between the ages of 24 and 28. Fifteen years after the program, they had substantially fewer mental disorders and substance abuse problems and a higher quality of relationships with romantic partners than a control group.
Research showed that the improvements in children's behaviors were due to the parenting skills taught in the program. After the classes, parents were more warm and affectionate and used more effective discipline. Parents in the program also reported feeling less depressed.
The judge may choose not to grant the divorce or may hold a parent in contempt of court.