Divorce Parenting Classes: State Requirements

What is Parent Education and Why Do Some States Require It?

Divorce is not easy on the parents or the children. 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.

What states require parent education classes?

Seventeen states require ALL divorcing parents, regardless if the divorce is uncontested, to attend some form of parent education class:

Map of U.S. states that require divorce parenting 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.

StateParenting Class Requirement
AlabamaMandatory in Calhoun County.
AlaskaMandatory. 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.
ArizonaMandatory. Arizona has minimum standards that the Parent Education Program must meet: Minimum Standards

Fees: Not to exceed $50
ArkansasAt judge's discretion.
CaliforniaDepends 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
ColoradoSome 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:
CFIT Classes

Fees: $40.00 per person.
ConnecticutMandatory for parents in a divorce case with children under age of 18.

Connecticut Parenting Education Programs

Fees: $125.00 per person
DelawareMandatory 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 ColumbiaAt judge's discretion.
FloridaMandatory. 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.
GeorgiaAt judge's discretion.
HawaiiMandatory. 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.
IdahoMandatory for all parents with child custody issues before the court are ordered to attend the Focus on the Children classes.

Fees: $20 each parent.
IllinoisIllinois 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.
IndianaAt judge's discretion.
IowaAt judge's discretion.
KansasAt judge's discretion.
KentuckyAt judge's discretion, but more than half of Kentucky's 56 judicial circuits have some form of Divorce Parent Education.
LouisianaAt judges discretion.
MaineAt judge's discretion.
MarylandSome 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.
MassachusettsMandatory. 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.
MichiganMost 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.
MinnesotaMandatory for parents who have children together and 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.
MississippiOnly required in 16th District.
MissouriAll 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.
MontanaAt judge's discretion.
NebraskaMandatory for parents filing a contested divorce.

Parenting Education Classes - List of provider classes

Fees: Vary depending on provider.
NevadaRequired in some counties.
New HampshireMandatory. 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 JerseyA Parent's Education Program is mandatory for parents filing for divorce.

Fees: $25.00 per person.
New MexicoAt judge's discretion.
New YorkAt 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 CarolinaOnly required in the 12th District.
North DakotaAt judge's discretion.
OhioMandatory only in certain counties.
OklahomaAs 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.
OregonMandatory only in certain counties.
PennsylvaniaMandatory only in certain counties.
Rhode IslandAt judge's discretion.
South CarolinaAt judge's discretion.
South DakotaRequired only in certain counties.
TennesseeMandatory. 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.
TexasAt judge's discretion.
UtahMandatory 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.
VermontAt judge's discretion.
VirginiaMandatory 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.
WashingtonMandatory. 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 VirginiaMandatory 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.
WisconsinMandatory. Both parties must attend a parenting class before the divorce will be granted.

Fees: Vary per program provider.
WyomingAt judge's discretion.

Topics covered in parent education classes include:

  1. The issues and procedures for resolving time-sharing and child support disputes.
  2. The emotional experiences and problems of divorcing adults.
  3. The family problems and the emotional concerns and needs of the children.
  4. Family relationships and family dynamics.
  5. Financial responsibilities to a child or children.
  6. Issues regarding spousal or child abuse and neglect.
  7. Skill-based relationship education that may be generalized to parenting, workplace, school, neighborhood, and civic relationships.
  8. The availability of community services and resources.

What are the Benefits of Parent Education?

Researchers at Arizona State University recently developed an online parenting-after-divorce program, the eNew Beginnings Program (eNBP). This program is based on an in-person group program, the New Beginnings Program (NBP), that has been shown in rigorous scientific studies to have multiple short- and long-term benefits. For example, the children whose parents participated in the NBP showed decreases in mental disorders, substance use and abuse, risky sexual behavior, use of mental health services, and involvement in the justice system. They also had higher self-esteem, grades, educational attainment, and work competence, when compared to the children whose parents did not participate in the NBP. A follow-up study revealed that many of these benefits continued up to 15 years later. Despite these remarkable effects, the NBP was not widely adopted. This led to the development of the eNBP with the goal of making the important benefits of the NBP more readily available to divorcing parents. The eNew Beginnings Program consists of 10 weekly sessions that last between 20 and 30 minutes. Parents learn skills to improve their relationships with their children, use more effective discipline and protect their children from being caught in the middle of interparental conflict. The program is highly interactive. Sessions begin with a check-in about parents’ use of the program skills. Parents then learn a new skill using modeling videos, interactive exercises, and testimonials from prior participants. They identify barriers to using the skill and plan ways to reduce these barriers. Parents are provided with tip sheets about the skills and a downloadable handbook that includes the major points of the session.

Both parents and children reported that the eNBP reduced interparental conflict, improved parent-child relationships, and increased effective discipline. Importantly, as compared to children whose parents were on a waitlist for the program, children whose parents were in the eNBP experienced decreases in anxiety and depression. Further, the benefits of the eNBP were as strong or stronger than those in the in-person group version.

Parents had very positive things to say about the program. For example, parents said, “It got me and my children closer to each other”, and “There are several tools I used immediately that my kids are big fans of.” Over 80% of the parents said that family courts should recommend divorcing or separating parents complete the eNew Beginnings Program.

For more information about the eNew Beginnings Program, go to www.divorceandparenting.com.

What Will Happen if one or both of the parents do not attend the education class?

The judge may choose not to grant the divorce or may hold a parent in contempt of court.

See Also