The Florida State Legislature has found that children, whose parents are going through a divorce, will suffer economic, emotional and educational effects during the process and have determined that parents are required to complete a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. A reasonable fee may be charged to each parent attending the course. The Department of Children and Family Services is to provide each judicial circuit with a list of approved course providers. The Orange County Clerk of Court in Florida has such a list for parents whose case is filed in Orange County in the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Those providers can be found at the following link:
Pursuant to the statute, the Parenting Course may include, but is not limited to, information on the following topics: legal aspects on deciding child-related issues between parents; emotional aspects of separation and divorce on adults; emotional aspects of separation and divorce on children; family relationships and dynamics; financial responsibilities to the child(ren); issues regarding spousal or child abuse and neglect; skill-based relationship education that may be generalized to parenting, workplace, school, neighborhood and civic relationships. The course should also provide information about the local community services and resources that are available.
It has been determined that in order for the divorcing parties to get the most benefit from the parenting course, they should take the course sooner rather than later, before litigation becomes adversarial. To that end, the legislature requires that the petitioner (the party initiating the divorce) must complete the parenting course within 45 days after they have filed their petition for dissolution and that the respondent (the person against whom relief is sought) must complete the course within 45 days after they have been served with the petition. The Court may, however, excuse a party from attending the parenting course for good cause.
Parties who are engaged in an action for paternity must also complete the Parenting Course, unless they are excused by the Court (as noted above) and must do so in the following time frame: The petitioner must complete the parenting course within 45 days after filing their petition for paternity and the other party (the respondent) must complete the course within 45 days after acknowledging paternity, a judgment of paternity, or an order granting time-sharing to or support from the respondent.
Once a party has completed the parenting course, they will receive a certificate stating they have completed the course. This certificate should be filed with the court to show proof of completing the required course. Should a party fail to attend the required parenting course, the Court may hold that parent in contempt, or may deny shared parental responsibility, or may deny the time-sharing or impose other sanctions as the court deems appropriate.
It should be noted that the parties to an action for dissolution or a paternity are not required to attend the parenting course together. In addition, the court may prohibit the parties from taking the parenting course together if there is a history of domestic violence between the parties. There is also parent counseling. While not required, recommended to help co-parent together during and after a divorce.
This article was co-written by Tyra Staltare.© Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, PA, 2013. All rights reserved.