Is Divorce Education Mandatory?
Posted: January 19, 2023
Anytime a couple divorces, there are a lot of things that need to be taken care of. Responding to divorce papers, attending court, and determining property division all take knowledge to manage. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of many divorces, however, is the question of child custody. Because deciding on appropriate care for children is such an important issue, many courts require parents to attend divorce education courses in order to participate in custody and visitation talks.
What Is Divorce Education?
Divorce education refers to any classes that divorcing parents attend to help them better manage parenting through the split. Divorce is a difficult experience for children no matter what, and the emotional, academic, and economic impact that results from parents splitting can be as traumatic to kids as the divorce itself.
In some cases, divorce education for children may be offered as well, although this is not required the way it is for parents.
When Is Divorce Education Mandatory?
Laws around divorce education vary from state to state. Seventeen states — including Connecticut, Florida, and New Jersey — require divorcing parents to attend divorce education courses regardless of the circumstances. In four states—Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia)—divorce education is required in contested divorces but not in cases of uncontested divorce.
In all other states, divorce education laws can be slightly more complicated. In many cases, the law states that the presiding judge has the power to require either or both parents to attend classes at the judge’s discretion. Aside from state laws, however, many county and local judicial districts have their own requirements (local rules) for divorcing parents. Laws can also sometimes vary based on whether a no-fault or at-fault divorce is being granted.
Failing to attend divorce education courses when required to do so can result in a parent not being granted custody, a judge not granting the divorce, or even holding the delinquent parent in contempt of the court for refusing to comply.
Types of Divorce Education Programs
Depending on where the divorce happens, the judge may specify where parents need to attend classes, or allow them to choose for themselves, provided that the institution offering them has a curriculum that matches the state’s laws.
Divorce education can take place either virtually or in person. Topics covered usually include information on emotional regulation, conflict resolution, and fiscal responsibility—as well as skills and services available to divorced parents.
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