There are no easy divorces, especially when the process involves children. For that reason, Florida law mandates that both parents involved in a divorce take a course in parenting while divorcing. This is no reflection on the parent. For the best parent or the worst, this course is designed to help them guide them and their children through this difficult time.
Why Mandate a Parenting Course
A divorce invariably involves conflict, and this Florida mandate is intended to protect the children as much as possible. Many children can and will suffer long-terms effects when they are forced to endure and witness their parents’ animosity. One of the purposes of this parenting course is to minimize the overall emotional and psychological damage that children go through when their parents split up and act out their anger in their presence.
Most of the courses throughout Florida are given in both English and Spanish. The course is overseen by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and this Department has a list of acceptable and eligible providers who can provide certification of completion.
What Can Parents Expect
The parenting course will take a minimum of four hours online or in person. Each jurisdiction may have different requirements, so the parents should do a Google search before they begin. Some judges may not permit going online to complete this course. Fees for the course can vary by county, but it is usually under $40.00. However, the more the parents disagree over the children, the costlier the divorce is apt to be; therefore, the cost of the mandated course is actually a practical financial consideration.
The parenting course will cover the following topics:
- Procedures for handling child custody disputes.
- The various emotional stages of the parents during the divorce process.
- The emotional needs of children when their parents divorce.
- Any resources available in the family’s community.
- Issues involving child support and any alleged abuse and neglect of the children
Following the completion of the parenting course, the parents will receive a certificate indicating they have satisfied the State of Florida legal mandates, and this should be filed with the court as soon as possible. Such a certificate may not seem like a big deal but putting the children first is always a big deal. The sooner in the divorce proceeding the parents take this course, the better they will be informed.
If a Parents Does Not Complete the Parenting Course
This is a court-mandated course and does not provide parents with the option to refuse. In the worst case, a judge may make all choices for the non-complying parent and not give him or her any power in future decisions. This parent is, in effect, relinquishing his or her parental power to the court. The good news is that each parent can take the course alone and does not have to be in the presence of the other parent.
If a parent needs additional help understanding the parenting issues involved, the judge can request special sessions to cover that parent’s needs and questions. There are more concentrated courses that are divided into three 12-week group sessions, one hour per week. This adds up to 36 hours of additional parental training.
The Florida-mandated parenting plan puts the best interest of the children first. Under Florida law, both parents share responsibility for a child’s upbringing, especially regarding medical, behavioral, and educational issues. Many of these issues can be volatile and cause continued conflict between the parents. A parenting course can bring these parents closer to agreeing on difficult topics and smooth the way for the children to survive and thrive during a parental separation.
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