Here’s what you need to know about Florida’s Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization class.
This is the who, what, when , where, how and why of the “divorce class” you must take, before a Florida Family court judge will “sign-off” on your final divorce decree. [Please note: these classes are only required for divorces that involve minor children.] It does NOT matter whether “custody” is disputed or not. BOTH parents are required [by Florida state statute] to attend this 4 hour class.
Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] for Florida’s Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization class. [and some “details” that other class providers may not tell you] Please read the ENTIRE PAGE.
–WHO- Am I required to take this Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization course?
This class is REQUIRED BY FLORIDA LAW. [All most every other state in the USA has similar legislation. This is NOT just “a Florida thing”] Your attorney can NOT “sweet-talk” the Judge into “letting you off the hook”. The Florida legislature recognized the value of requiring all divorcing couples to understand the emotional, physical and financial hardship that the instability of divorce places on children. [You can read the official legislation, posted in it’s entirety, at the bottom of this page]
— WHAT — What will I learn in the class?
Florida’s Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization class will take a state-required 4 hours/ minimum. The class content covers the changes that will occur in your children’s life, even if there is a mutual agreement to the divorce. The new reality is: your children’s relationship with each parent will be different and the amount of time and parental access will be changing too. In the best of cases, a divorce is stressful. The class will present proven tools to reduce [but never eliminate] this stress.
The Florida legislature requires BOTH parents to take this class, BEFORE the final divorce decree can be issued. [Many Family Court Judges also require this class of co-habitating, same-sex, and/or never-married couples, when custody or child-support issues are in dispute.] The Florida legislature intended this class to be helpful, suggesting attendance early in the divorce process, before legal disputes create stress, financial hardship and emotional damage to children. [REMEMBER this class is a tool to learn about the effect divorce has on them, not the emotional or financial agreements that are a practical necessity of the divorce process. The Florida’s Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization class IS NOT a punishment for your decision to obtain a divorce. It’s curriculum is design to help both parents understand the new reality of “co-parenting”. You will NOT learn how to be a parent [We assume you know that] You will learn the skills to co-parent going forward.
–WHERE — Where can I take the Florida Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course?
DEPENDING ON which County YOU LIVE IN, the answer can vary. There are two options available state-wide [but your choices could be limited in some Counties/ Florida Family Court Jurisdictions.] The traditional classroom sessions are offered, and a “new” online version MAY/May NOT be available. Both sessions will cover the same content [assuming they are pre-approved to be accepted by Florida’s Department of Children and Families, called DCF] and YOUR District Court. See the list below, for the latest info on YOUR County.
Court Ordered Classroom.com offers the in-person / classroom sessions in our Temple Terrace offices [Hillsborough County/ Judicial District 13] in Lakeland and in metro Orlando [Seminole County / Judicial District 18] where parents are required to attend the classes in-person [in most cases] We also offer the on-line version for those able to take it in that format.
The in-person classroom version of this “divorce class” are scheduled on “nights” and most weekends, to make it as convenient as possible for you. Our state-approved instructors also teach this class in the law offices of some attorneys who can benefit from the convenience of “group scheduling” or classes done for a solo individual with special issues. Some in-person classes are scheduled in alternate locations, like librarys and churches, when we can fill a demand in that way.
The requirements at specific Florida Court Jurisdictions can change at any time, but we currently suggest you find an in-person provider in these Counties /Court Jurisdictions.
Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, or Walton Counties — Florida’s 1st Judicial District
Clay, Duval, or Nassau County — Florida’s 4th Judicial District
Pasco Pinellas Counties — Florida’s 6th Judicial District
Hillsborough County/Tampa — Florida’s 13th Judicial District
DeSoto, Manatee, or Sarasota County — Florida’s 12th Judicial District
Brevard or Seminole Counties – Florida’s 18th Judicial District
Martin, StLucie, Indian River, or Okeechobee Counties — Florida’s 19th Judicial District
Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, or Lee County — Florida’s 20th Judicial District[Court Ordered Classroom offers in-person classes in TampaBay, Lakeland and metro Orlando]
—— Call 888-310-6630 to schedule a class in THOSE LOCATIONS ONLY—–
The online version of the Florida Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course can offer more flexibility, but the 4-hour class-time and content are the same. You can log-in, create an account, as you would at NetFlix, then confirm your e-dress, pay for your class and start immediately. The most popular advantage to the online class is the ability to stop and start / sign-in and sign-out as your personal time allows. The online class is always “waiting” 24 hours /7 days a week. You can start / stop as often as you need. The internal “clock” will always return you to the segment of the class where you left. [IMPORTANT: The online class is NOT easier or faster, and you can’t “fake” your way through it. Unlike our NetFlix example the Co-Parent Education and Family Stabilization course is NOT a video you can “turn-on” and ignore, while doing other things.]
Another difference between the classroom-version and the online class is the “parenting plan”. Each Family Court Judge will want to see agreement on a “parenting plan”. Our state-approved instructors are NOT attorneys, but can help you with the framework and offer suggetions to fit your unique situation. The Florida Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course is NOT intended to offer legal advice. The class is intended to make both parents aware of the emotional, practical and logistical changes that will effect your child’s future. You should consult with a licensed attorney to ask specific legal questions or visit the “Pro Se” assistance office, if your court house has one. [Most Counties do]
–WHY– Why do I need this class? I already know how to “parent” my child(ren)
The Florida state legislature [and almost all the other state legislatures too, BTW] generally agree that divorce has a negative impact on children. There is disruption in the relationship with each parent, the emotional tug between other family members, often new financial pressures and the logistical problems that effect the child’s social life and education.
For these reasons, almost every state requires some variation of Florida Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course. You will not learn how to be a parent. [We assume you know that]. This 4-hour class session allows you to explore and learn ways to negotiate the new dynamics of a divorced life. Children thrive when they have a loving relationship with both parents. The emotional and physical time together can be scheduled by Court Orders, but parental bickering and emotional extortion/blackmail can create conflict that effects the children. The phrase “Little ears hear all” comes from a training manual, but is an important thing to remember going forward. You are not “divorcing” your child(ren), and they need to know/understand that.
The Court Ordered Classroom instructors are state-certified, but are not attorneys for either party. They are not Guardian Ad Litem or Social work councelers, so you can feel free to discuss your situation, without fears that comments will be used for/against you in Family Court. The co-parenting course is educational. You will gain/learn directly proportional to the effort you put forth.
Other Common Questions
Who reports to the Judge that I finished this class? What happens after I finish the class?
Court Ordered Classroom is recognized by the State of Florida and Your Family Court. We will issue a certificate of class attendance. It is e-mailed to you, whether you take the class in person or online. We keep a copy in our records, should there be [very rarely] a question later. IF you take the class, in-person, we can also email the certificate directly to your attorney. [We recommend you have a copy too.] You can take your copy directly to the Court for “filing”, if you are doing your divorce “Pro Se”.
Is there a test at the end of the class? What is the minimum grade I need to “pass” the class?
There is no “test” requirement by Florida state Law. Court Ordered Classroom has instructors to guide you through the class, if you attend in person. The online version is interactive, with required engagement, but no “test
Why do I have to pay for this class? I thought this would be free? Is this another government tax?
Court Ordered Classroom is a state-approved contractor, but we must pay rent and our instructors like any other school. Property Taxes pay for public schools, but not our classes. Traffic Court Judges will require driving classes too, and those classes are EXPENSIVE. Our prices are the lowest we can offer, for a State-approved Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course.
WARNING: it is very easy to build a website and “sell” online classes. DO NOT BE FOOLED. Do NOT take an online class without proof that it is a state-approved cirriculm AND school location. Make sure your online class provider offers a money-back guarantee, [if your Family Court Judge does NOT ACCEPT your attendance certificate]. Court Ordered Classroom offers BOTH in-person and online classes, with an acceptance guarantee. That is NOT TRUE of many websites promising cheap, easy, quick certificates. Often they don’t even have real offices, just PO Box addresses. Don’t “waste” 4-hours online, then be forced to find a classroom setting at the last minute.
Where can I get more information about help for a family going through divorce?
Each Court Ordered Classroom instructor will provide a list of local resources and assistance, during your session. It’s one of the advantages of an in-person class. The state of Florida web site is: http://www.myfloridafamilies.com/ It has resources listewd, plus articles and guidelines to assist you too.
Here is the actual text of the Florida legislation that created the Co- Parent Education and Family Stabilization course.
61.21 Parenting course authorized; fees; required attendance authorized; contempt.—
(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS; PURPOSE.—It is the finding of the Legislature that:
(a) A large number of children experience the separation or divorce of their parents each year. 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 this difficult period of family transition. This is particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict.
(b) Parents are more likely to consider the best interests of their children when determining parental arrangements if courts provide families with information regarding the process by which courts make decisions on issues affecting their children and suggestions as to how parents may ease the coming adjustments in family structure for their children.
(c) It has been found to be beneficial to parents who are separating or divorcing to have available an educational program that will provide general information regarding:
1. The issues and legal 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. The availability of community services and resources.
(d) Parents who are separating or divorcing are more likely to receive maximum benefit from a program if they attend such program at the earliest stages of their dispute, before extensive litigation occurs and adversarial positions are assumed or intensified.
(2) The Department of Children and Families shall approve a parenting course which shall be a course of a minimum of 4 hours designed to educate, train, and assist divorcing parents in regard to the consequences of divorce on parents and children.
(a) The parenting course referred to in this section shall be named the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course and may include, but need not be limited to, the following topics as they relate to court actions between parents involving custody, care, time-sharing, and support of a child or children:
1. Legal aspects of deciding child-related issues between parents.
2. Emotional aspects of separation and divorce on adults.
3. Emotional aspects of separation and divorce on 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.
(b) Information regarding spousal and child abuse and neglect shall be included in every parent education and family stabilization course. A list of local agencies that provide assistance with such issues shall also be provided.
(c) The parent education and family stabilization course shall be educational in nature and shall not be designed to provide individual mental health therapy for parents or children, or individual legal advice to parents or children.
(d) Course providers shall not solicit participants from the sessions they conduct to become private clients or patients.
(e) Course providers shall not give individual legal advice or mental health therapy.
(3) Each course provider offering a parenting course pursuant to this section must be approved by the Department of Children and Families.
(a) The Department of Children and Families shall provide each judicial circuit with a list of approved course providers and sites at which the parent education and family stabilization course may be completed. Each judicial circuit must make information regarding all course providers approved for their circuit available to all parents.
(b) The Department of Children and Families shall include on the list of approved course providers and sites for each circuit at least one site in that circuit where the parent education and family stabilization course may be completed on a sliding fee scale, if available.
(c) The Department of Children and Families shall include on the list of approved course providers, without limitation as to the area of the state for which the course is approved, a minimum of one statewide approved course to be provided through the Internet and one statewide approved course to be provided through correspondence. The purpose of the Internet and correspondence courses is to ensure that the parent education and stabilization course is available in the home county of each state resident and to those out-of-state persons subject to this section.
(d) The Department of Children and Families may remove a provider who violates this section, or its implementing rules, from the list of approved court providers.
(e) The Department of Children and Families shall adopt rules to administer subsection (2) and this subsection.
(4) 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. The court may excuse a party from attending the parenting course, or from completing the course within the required time, for good cause.
(5) All parties required to complete a parenting course under this section shall begin the course as expeditiously as possible. For dissolution of marriage actions, unless excused by the court pursuant to subsection (4), the petitioner must complete the course within 45 days after the filing of the petition, and all other parties must complete the course within 45 days after service of the petition. For paternity actions, unless excused by the court pursuant to subsection (4), the petitioner must complete the course within 45 days after filing the petition, and any other party must complete the course within 45 days after an acknowledgment of paternity by that party, an adjudication of paternity of that party, or an order granting time-sharing to or support from that party. Each party to a dissolution or paternity action shall file proof of compliance with this subsection with the court prior to the entry of the final judgment.
(6) All parties to a modification of a final judgment involving a parenting plan or a time-sharing schedule may be required to complete a court-approved parenting course prior to the entry of an order modifying the final judgment.
(7) A reasonable fee may be charged to each parent attending the course.
(8) Information obtained or statements made by the parties at any educational session required under this statute shall not be considered in the adjudication of a pending or subsequent action, nor shall any report resulting from such educational session become part of the record of the case unless the parties have stipulated in writing to the contrary.
(9) The court may hold any parent who fails to attend a required parenting course in contempt, or that parent may be denied shared parental responsibility or time-sharing or otherwise sanctioned as the court deems appropriate.
(10) Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the parties to a dissolution of marriage to attend a court-approved parenting course together.
(11) The court may, without motion of either party, prohibit the parenting course from being taken together, if there is a history of domestic violence between the parties.