Divorcing parents in most states are sometimes required to take a parenting class. These classes are offered by court-approved centers in every state and last about four hours. They may be taken in person, online, or by mail (although this isn’t very common today), and usually cost between $30 and $60. Some centers offer them in Spanish as well as English.
In most states, a certificate of completion stating the number of hours taken must be presented to the court before the divorce can push through. Couples may also need to take and pass an exam following the course before they can be issued the certificate. Normally the fees only apply to the course itself; there should be no additional fees for claiming the certificate except in special situations (e.g. claiming after a given time frame).
One of the main purposes of the parenting class for divorce is to help the couple deal with the impact of the situation on their children. The most commonly required class is called Impact of Divorce on Children (IODC), a four-hour course that focuses on how children can cope with the changes and what parents can do about it. It teaches parents how to avoid putting their kids in the middle of the conflict, understand their situation, detect warning signs of depression and anger, and maintain a clear line of communication between all parties. The counselor can also help parents develop a parallel parenting plan based on their particular situations.
Hourly requirements vary by state—some just require the IODC course, but others require six, eight, or even twelve hours of courses. To comply, couples can take additional courses such as the Impact of Divorce on Adults (IODA), a two-hour session focusing on the effects of divorce on the couple themselves. This may include advice on coping positively with the stress and anger that accompanies a divorce, dealing with spousal and child abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and other safety issues.
When choosing a parenting class for divorce, make sure to go to a court-appointed center. Your safest bet is to get a list from the court itself, or to have your lawyer recommend one. More importantly, take your course seriously—think of it not as a court requirement, but as a favor to your kids. More than getting the paperwork over with, it’s a way of keeping the divorce from making you a bad parent, or even letting it make you a better one.