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Custody and Support Parent Education Programs: State Links

Knowledge and Information Service

Parent education programs teach divorcing, separating, or never-married parents conflict resolution skills they need to minimize the impact of their separation on their children. Many jurisdictions mandate such courses for any party involved in a custody or visitation dispute. Some jurisdictions offer courses that help children cope with divorce and separation. Many parent education programs are combined with a court-connected mediation program or requirement. Attendance at a parent education course may, in fact, be the first stage of mediation, as parents learn basic conflict resolution skills. A jurisdiction may maintain a list of approved programs for parents. Many of these are included below, along with basic information about the course curriculum, costs to parties, legislation or other legal authority, and which parents must attend.

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In the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama, divorces involving minor children of any age require both parents to go through Transitions, an educational program designed to help parents and children cope with divorce-related problems. The course is taught at the Children's Place and costs $50 per parent. More information is available online. Top


Arizona requires every parent of a natural or adopted, unemancipated minor child who files for a divorce, separation, parenting time, or custody, or is involved in any paternity proceeding in which a party has requested that the superior court determine custody, specific parenting time, or child support, to attend a Parent Education class. Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts. Things You Should Know about Parent Education Class. Phoenix: Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts, 2003. Includes questions and answers about the course, tips for parents, and contact information for all the superior courts in the state of Arizona. Coconino County Conciliation Court. The conciliation court serves families experiencing marital

stress, separation, divorce, or paternity issues. Information, counseling, mediation, divorce education classes for adults, and divorce support groups for children, as well as custody evaluations and supervised visitation, are available to help families find solutions to relationship conflicts. All services except for family custody evaluations are confidential, and most are cost free. Top


Arkansas state code, statute 9-12-322, gives the court the power to require parties involved in a divorce to attend at least two hours of parent education classes, in addition to ordering the parties to mediation and other programs. Top


In California, mediation is mandatory for parties involved in custody. The provider is usually Family Court Services in each county's superior court. Orange County Superior Court offers a useful question-and-answer sheet about mandatory family mediation. Family law facilitators in each county assist pro se parties with support and other family law matters. Parent education programs for individual counties are listed below. Marin County Family Court Services offer family mediation and other services for parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, and others in the process of making co-parent decisions. Site includes tips on how parents can be more aware of the child's needs during divorce; guidelines to help diminish conflict; and resources. Napa County Superior Court Family Court Services provides Parent Orientation to court and education to separating and divorcing families. Superior Court of California, San Luis Obispo County, offers the following parent education programs through Family Court Services: mediation orientation; Children: The Challenge of Divorce; and Co-parenting Essentials (C.O.P.E.). Superior Court of California, Santa Barbara County Parent Education Programs. All parents involved in a family law proceeding where there are minor children must attend and complete an approved mandatory parent education program (Parent and Child Training in Santa Maria or Children in the Middle in Santa Barbara). The actions before the court may include legal separation, dissolution of marriage (divorce), petitions to establish parental relationship, temporary restraining orders, or actions to establish or modify custody or visitation. Site includes link to local court rule, family court services, substance abuse treatment court, mediation, and other resources. Superior Court of California, Santa Cruz County Family Court Services Orientation Packet offers a variety of programs and information, all downloadable in English or Spanish. Superior Court of California, San Diego, Family Court Services provides voluntary Parent

Orientation and Parent Education classes. Superior Court of California, San Mateo County, requires parents disputing custody and visitation to attend parent education. Santa Clara County Family Court Services. Kids, Court, and You. Santa Clara, CA: Family Court Services. Includes guide to court; information about domestic violence; effects of separation on parents and children; mediation; how to develop a parenting plan; and a bibliography. Also available in Spanish. Stanislaus County requires all residents who have matters involving custody or visitation to attend an orientation to mediation any Wednesday before the assigned court date. Parenting classes are provided by Family Court Services. Referral to parenting class is by court order or referral by mediation. Superior Court of California, Ventura County, requires all parties to attend mediation orientation. Top


Parties in a divorce action must attend a parent education class. 4th Judicial District (El Paso and Teller counties) parent education classes. Top


Section 46b-69b of Connecticut State Law states that all separating and divorcing parents can be required to attend a six-hour parent education class. The class costs $100 and provides parents with information on child development, the effect of parental separation on children, dispute resolution and conflict management, guidelines for visitation, stress reduction in children, and lessons in cooperative parenting. Top


Delaware orders both parents to take a parent education class as a part of a preliminary injunction filed with both the petitioner and the respondent. Top


Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course Providers (by Circuit). Includes contact information, fees, and languages available. Florida Statute 61.21 and local administrative orders require the courses for divorcing parents. Links to certain online information from specific districts is provided below. Note that circuits not listed still require the program; they just do not have their

information available online. Please refer to the provider link above for a full statewide overview of providers and contacts. Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough), pursuant to Administrative Order S-2002-107, requires each party in a dissolution of marriage action or paternity action who is the natural or legal parent of any minor child whose custody or visitation is directly affected to attend and complete a courtapproved parenting course before the final hearing. Proof of completion of this course must be filed with the court. Fifteenth Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County) Administrative Order No. 5.020-2/99 established the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sixteenth Judicial Circuit (Key West/Monroe County) Administrative Order No. 5.013, am'd 03-1, approved Parent Education and Family Stabilization courses. Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (Broward) Local Administrative Order NO.II-00-F-06, pursuant to the authority of Florida Statute 61.21, approves specific programs for the Parenting Course required for divorcing parties with minor children. Without prior approval from the judge assigned to the case, only completion of a program listed on the approved program page is accepted to meet the requirements of the administrative order. Top


Cobb County Superior and Probate courts mandate participation in the Divorcing Parents Seminar. The courts also offer Focus on Forever: A Marital Workshop, designed for newly married and engaged couples. What About Me? is a voluntary program designed for children of divorcing parents. Gwinnett County requires The Navigating Family Change: A Parent Seminar. Fee is $30. Site includes course description and registration process, plus contact information for Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton counties and the Ninth Judicial District, and for a seminar offered in Spanish. Top


While Hawaii does not have a mandatory parent education program, they do offer free seminars on child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, property division, and mediation. See Divorce Law in Hawaii. Top


Third Judicial District (Gem, Canyon, and Owyhee counties) course description and Schedule for 2004 Divorcing Parent Class. Includes information about child development when parents live

apart; mediation; sample parenting plan agreement; and recommended reading. Fifth Judicial District (Blaine, Jerome, Minidoka, and Twin Falls) orders Parenting Apart classes for all parents who file for divorce, for modification of a parenting arrangement, or for a visitation order in a paternity case before action is taken on their petition. There are also "volunteer" participants who may be stepparents, grandparents, or previously divorced parents who wish to learn the skills taught in the classes. Top


Nineteenth Circuit (Lake County) Family Parenting Program. Course is designed for divorcing parents but open to all. There is a $35 fee; a waiver may be requested. McHenry County's Parents, Children, and Divorce (PCD) course is required for parents of children under 18 who have filed for divorce or are involved in post-judgment custody or visitation petitions within McHenry County. Cost is $50. Over 90 percent of those attending the program give it high ratings ("very good" or "outstanding"). Top


Hamilton County Circuit and Superior Courts offer a program for children of divorcing parents: Children Cope with Divorce. Top


Iowa law requires parties to any action involving custody or visitation issues to attend a courtapproved course about the effects of divorce on children. Every judicial district has such a program. Parents must attend within 45 days of service of original notice or application for modification of an order. A final decree shall not be entered until parties comply (Iowa Code §598.19A). A fee is charged. Further information about the courses and contact information is available. Top


Court Mandated Divorce Education exists in more than half of the state's 56 judicial circuits. A variety of programs are offered, including Divorce Education Workshop; Divorcing and Divorced Parent Education Program; Families in Transition; Helping Children Cope with Divorce; Kids' Time; Tween Time; Parents Are for Good; and Parent Education Clinic. Site features philosophy of programs, program descriptions, and suggested readings for children of all ages and their parents. Top


Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, has a program mandated by local rule. The program, "Voices for Children," is a not-for-profit agency. The 3-hour course is mandated for any parents filing motions involving custody and/or visitation. Most judges in New Orleans also mandate participation, but that is discretionary (i.e., judges are not required to order attendance; however, if parents are ordered to attend by the judge, they must participate.) Executive Director is Babs Bryant: 504-2990948. Top


Courts around the state offer Kids First; Parent Works; For Kids' Sake ; and Moving Forward. Registration forms are available online. Cost for most programs is $45 per individual, $70 for couples. Requires mediation in contested domestic relations matters. Mediation is provided by Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Service. See the Maine Judicial Branch: Family Division Web Site. Top


Most Maryland counties have co-parenting classes. According to Md. Rule 9-204.1, courts may order parents in family law actions involving divorce, custody, visitation, or child support to attend. Some circuit courts require all parties in contested family cases to attend these programs. All separating parents are encouraged to attend, even if the case is not contested. Co-Parenting Education is explained on the Department of Family Administration site. A list of Family Support Services Coordinators and Family Division Administrators is available. Fee waivers for parents who are unable to pay the cost of the program are available. Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County generally orders parents with children in common to attend a six-hour parent education program called the Family Law Orientation Workshop (F.L.O.W.). Baltimore County offers Cooperative Co-Parenting for Healthy Children. Circuit Court for Calvert County refers litigants to basic parenting classes at the Calvert County Health Department. Family Services Program, Circuit Court for Caroline County, offers a co-parenting seminar called Healing Hearts. Circuit Court for Carroll County. Parents litigating custody are usually ordered to the Co-Parenting Education Program. Circuit Court for Cecil County offers a six-hour course: Parenting for Parents Living Apart.

Circuit Court for Dorchester County, orders parents to attend Healing Hearts where a contested answer has been filed and the minor children are under the age of 15. The fee is $40 per party. Circuit Court for Frederick County, refers parents in contested custody/visitation to seminars for separated, divorced, and never-married parents. The fee is $100 per party. The private providers have been certified to teach the course. Circuit Court for Harford County offers Successful Parenting When Families Live Apart and Parenting Solutions for High Conflict Families. A group for children coping with parents who live apart is also available. Circuit Court for Kent County, offers the Healing Hearts program. Programs for children are also available. Montgomery Circuit Court Co-Parenting Skills Enhancement Program (P.E.A.C.E.). Parents may be ordered by the court to attend. Queen Anne's County offers the Healing Hearts program at $30 per person, $35for out-of-county residents. Somerset County Circuit Court offers Co-parenting Education Classes. Cost is $25 per six-hour seminar per person. St. Mary's County Circuit Court offers The Transparenting Seminar for parents and the Rollercoasters support group for children. Talbot County Circuit Court, in family law actions involving divorce, custody, visitation, or child support, may order the parties to attend an educational seminar. The county offers the Healing Hearts program. Cost is $40 per person. Washington County Circuit Court began ordering parents to educational programs in fiscal year 2001. Cost is $100 per parent. Wicomico County Circuit Court may order litigants to the Co-parenting Seminar offered by the Center for Conflict Resolution at Salisbury State University. Mediation services are ordered for parents litigating custody and visitation. Worcester County Circuit Court offers the six-hour Co-parenting Educational Seminar through the county health department. The cost is $50 per person. Top


Probate and family court has established parent education programs in all its divisions, with the exception of the Nantucket division. Attendance and participation at an approved parent education program by all parties to a divorce action in which there are minor children is mandated. A judge

may also require the parties in a paternity, modification, or contempt action to attend the program. A list of court-approved providers is available. There are 69 approved programs in the state offering services in 56 locations. The program is offered in Spanish in two locations. Massachusetts Trial Court, Plymouth County Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-03, eff. August 1, 2003, regarding parent education program attendance. Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Parent Education Program. Fee is $65 per party; reduced fees available in some cases. Top


Calhoun County Family Court offers Start Making It Livable for Everyone (S.M.I.L.E.) for separating/divorced parents with children under age 18. Parents receive an invitation letter from the family court in which the judge informs them of the date, time, and location. There is no cost to attend. See also the schedule; Keep Smiling, a list of follow-up and support resources for parents; and the online S.M.I.L.E. Handbook. Top


The Minnesota state legislature requires all parents filing for divorce/dissolution to attend an educational program. Fourth Judicial District Court (Hennepin County) Parental and Child Educational Requirements for Divorce. Parties who have reached a custody and visitation agreement (uncontested) need only attend one of three different classes: Hennepin County Education Video (1.5 hours; free); Storefront Youth Action's Co-Parenting Program (4 hours; $55 per person); Chrysalis Shared Parenting (4 hours; $55 per person). Parties in contested cases must attend a combination of three classes. Two are mandatory: Hennepin County Education Video with Mediation (3.5 hours; free) and Legal and Economic Aspects of Divorce (L.E.A.D.) (1.5 hours; $20 per person). Parents in contested cases must also attend one of the following: Storefront Co-parenting Program or Chrysalis Shared Parenting. There is also an educational requirement for children ages 6 to 17. Children must attend one of the following: Storefront Group Co-kids Program (ages 9-17; $35 per person) or Chrysalis Sandcastles Program (ages 6-17; $35 per person). Top


Seventh Judicial Circuit Court (Clay County) provides information about Cooperative Parenting Skills via the Family Court Services site. Includes brief list of tips, counseling resources and contacts, and brief bibliography. Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court (Jackson County) Family Court Services offers Parenting Together, Living Apart (PTLA). Participation in the program can be ordered or suggested by the

court, initiated by a referral from an attorney or social service agency, or initiated by the parties. There is no fee to attend the three-hour program. Focus on Children in Separation (FOCIS) is a course for parents and their 5-to-17-year-old children with custody/visitation issues. Participants attend two two-hour sessions. Access to service is court-ordered. Parties must attend within 45 days of filing petition or motion. Cost is $30 per parent; children are free. Refocus on Children in Separation (RE-FOCIS) is a two-hour refresher for parents who have filed motions to modify previous divorce orders to contest custody, visitation, or both. Cost is $10 per parent. Top


Montana Code 40-4-226 mandates that courts shall inform parties involved in divorce proceedings in which a child is involved of available parent education programs, and if the court deems it appropriate, order parents to participate in any such program. Top


Rules Relating to the Implementation of the Parenting Act (9-94) state that it is the duty of the state court administrator to develop and disseminate informational materials to the clerks of district courts. These include parenting brochures. The act also governs mediator qualifications, appropriateness of mediation, court referrals and costs for mediation, and related items. Top

New Hampshire

The Children First Program has been adopted by all ten counties in New Hampshire to increase parental understanding of what effects divorce has on children. Parents must complete the program before a divorce can be granted. Top

New Jersey

Courts in New Jersey are mandated to provide parent education programs pursuant to the Parent's Education Act, N.J.S.A.2A:34-12.1 ­ 2A:34-12.8 (1999). Cumberland County Family Court includes a message from Hon. Joseph P. Testa regarding the Kids Count program. Superior Court of New Jersey Essex Vicinage Family Court Parent Education Program. Designed for non-dissolution litigants seeking custody, shared parenting time, and child support. Level I is a voluntary 90-minute seminar. Level II is a six-week workshop. Participants in Level II are self-referred but may also be referred by a mediator, probation officer, or judge, or ordered to attend by a judge. The Parent Education Program for Divorcing Parents is mandatory.

Morris/Sussex Vicinage Family Division offers a Parent Education Workshop administered by the family court mediator. Fee is $25. The program is mandated by the Passaic County Family Court and provides a Parent Education Program for all parties going through a divorce who have minor children. Passaic County Family Court offers a Parent Education Program and Kids Count for children whose parents are divorcing. Top

New Mexico

New Mexico requires pre-divorce counseling via statute, viewable online in Senate Bill 318. It requires those seeking a divorce to complete a minimum of six hours of joint counseling in no less than three separate sessions. This can only be waived if no children are involved in the divorce proceedings and both parties agree to do so, making it essentially a parent education program. Top

New York

New York State Parent Education Advisory Board. Proposed Guidelines, Standards and Requirements for Parent Education Programs: Report of the New York State Parent Education Advisory Board to the Chief Judge and the Chief Administrative Judge. New York: New York State Unified Court System, October 1, 2003. New York also has a parent advisory program called Parents Apart, which offers educational programs about the effects of divorce on children. Top


Ohio Task Force on Family Law and Children. Family Law Reform: Minimizing Conflict, Maximizing Families. Columbus: Ohio Task Force on Family Law and Children, 2001. Butler County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations: All persons with children who seek divorce or dissolution of marriage in Butler County are required to participate in the fourhour Helping Children Succeed After Divorce program presented by the Center for Forensic Psychiatry. Clermont County Domestic Relations Court offers Kids In Divorce Situations (K.I.D.S.) to children and parents. Attendance statistics are available. Helping Children Cope with Divorce is required for parents getting a divorce in Clermont County. Erie County Court of Common Pleas Custody, Mediation, Investigation, and Parent Education Programs. In 1995 a mandatory two-hour parent education program, Children and Divorce: A Seminar for Parents, was implemented for all divorce and dissolution filings involving minor children.

Mahoning County Domestic Relations Court offers For Our Children, a free but mandatory program for children ages 8 to 12 whose parents are divorcing. The program complements the Parents Workshop, which, by local rule of the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations, all parents with minor children who are parties to a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation action must attend before their final hearing. Top


Family and Children's Services, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving family relationships and legal processes, offers workshops in Tulsa for parents seeking to educate themselves, specifically in their Center for Divorce Services. They offer programs for parents and children alike, including the award-winning Helping Children Cope with Divorce, a four-hour seminar. Fees for this program are around $40. Certain programs, such as their Caring Connections for Kids class, are joint operations with the Tulsa County Court and the Tulsa County Bar Association. Top


Compilation of Parent and Child Divorce Education Programs in Oregon (as of 11/07/02) includes whether program is mandatory or voluntary; fees and funding; contacts; curriculum; and number of participants per month, all by judicial district. A list of court-approved parent education classes by county is also available. Clackamas County Family Court Services Parent Education Program (court-approved program). All parties to an annulment, dissolution, separation, custody or visitation action, or postdecree litigation involving custody or visitation, where the interest of a child under the age of 18 is involved, are required to attend. See ORS 3.425 and SLR 8.015. Jackson County Family Court requires parents involved in divorce, separation, custody, parenting time, or paternity cases to attend mandatory parent education. Site contains FAQ about the program and a parenting handbook, Helping Children to Cope with Separation and Divorce: A Guide for Jackson County Parents, by the Jackson County Courts Mediation Services. The Third Judicial District requires parents appearing in cases involving custody and/or parenting time (visitation) of minor children to attend Helping Children Cope with Their Parent's Divorce or Separation. Cost is $50. Registration forms and brochures are available in English and Spanish. Top


Juanita and Perry counties' Education Program for Separated Parents [34 Pa.B. 1570], Order (March 1, 2004). Requires parents involved in divorce, custody, visitation, or other matters as the

court shall direct, where children are under age 18, to attend the program. Fee is $45 per party. Northampton County Court of Common Pleas Co-parenting Education Program. The 90-minute program is sustained by a $15 fee paid by participants. Top

Rhode Island

The Divided Yet United seminar involves two 2 ½ hour sessions. The program is funded by the Rhode Island Family and Children's Trust Fund and presented as a cooperative effort between St. Mary's Home for Children and Rhode Island Family Court. There is a $25 fee per parent; slidingscale fees are also available. Top


Galveston County For Kids Sake program. Site includes application, locations, and schedule. Travis County offers the Moving Through five-hour workshop to parents in the process of divorce or other conflicts that affect children after a breakup ($25). Cooperative Parenting Classes offer six topics presented in 90-minute courses ($60). The Start Making It Livable for Everyone (S.M.I.L.E.) handbook is available online (see also Michigan). Top


Utah requires all parents filing for a divorce who have biological children under the age of 18 to attend the Divorce Education for Parents program. Fee is $35 per parent. Site includes goals, registration information, and instructor information. Top


Together with the University of Vermont Extension, the Vermont Family Court offers Coping with Separation and Divorce: A Parenting Seminar. The court requires the four-hour seminar for divorcing and separating parents. An article about the program, Parent Handbook, schedule, registration, and evaluation of the program are available. The course is available online via the Live on Line program. The Vermont judiciary provides a copy of its Effects of Divorce on Children brochure on its Web site. Top


Virginia Code §16.1-278.15 and 20-103 state that parties to any petition where a child whose custody, visitation, or support is at issue for an original decision, whether contested

or by agreement, shall show proof that they have attended within the 12 months before their court appearance, or that they shall attend within 45 days thereafter, an educational seminar or other like program conducted by a qualified person or organization approved by the court. By statute, the fee is based on the party's ability to pay; no fee in excess of $50 may be charged. See Virginia's Judicial System: Parent Education. Includes forms for programs and a map of providers. Baldwin, Robert N. Evaluation of Parent Education Programs. Richmond, VA: Office of the Executive Secretary, November 25, 2002. Includes map of Virginia programs and list of providers by circuit. Office of the Executive Secretary. Model Parent Education Curriculum and a Study of Related Custody and Visitation Issues. House Doc. No. 26. Richmond, VA: Supreme Court of Virginia, 2000. Top


Pierce County Superior Court bases its mandatory requirement on the best interests of the child. The requirement of the parenting seminar applies to parties in all cases filed after September 1, 2000, under Ch. 26.09, Ch. 26.10, or Ch. 26.26 RCW, which require a parenting plan or residential schedule for minor children, including dissolutions, legal separations, major modifications, paternity actions in which paternity has been established, and nonparental custody cases. Several approved seminars are available: Impact on Children and others. Snohomish County Superior Court bases its rule on the same best-interests standard. The court requires For Kids Sake: A Parenting Seminar. Both parents are required to attend. A parent who fails to attend in the first 60 days is precluded from thereafter seeking temporary orders and cannot ask for a trial date. However, a parent who does comply may proceed in court regardless of the compliance of the other parent. A fee schedule applies. Top


Dane County Parent Education Program. Program must be attended before parents attend mandatory mediation session. Site links to staff and family court counseling service page. Green County Family Court (Monroe) offers cooperative parenting classes: Keeping Your Kids Out of the Middle. By statute, Wisconsin Family Courts may establish education programs to help parents understand the effects of divorce on their children. As part of any action affecting the family in which there are issues surrounding the children, the family court commissioner will refer parties to the classes. Parties are also referred to mediation. The cost is $45 per person ($55 if late). Read comments from parents who attended the program. Top

Contact the Knowledge & Information Services Office with inquiries regarding [Parent Education Programs] Online Request Form 1-800-616-6164 Last Modified: [June 23, 2004] © 2004 ­ The National Center for State Courts. All rights reserved.



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