Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
Divorce with children can be complicated, and in Florida, may require a parenting class to help deal with it. Florida divorces involving children have a requirement that the parents attend a parenting class previously approved by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In some paternity cases in Florida, the parents are required to attend the same class that divorced parents attend given that the issues are similar in dealing with the children having, in essence, two homes.
There are online classes available, but they may not be permitted or used in the courts where you reside. For example, an online course is allowed for those who have a divorce case in St. Augustine, but not in Jacksonville. Unless a parent resides out-of-town, the parents in a Jacksonville divorce are required to physically attend the class.
In recent times there have been many questions about whether the online course is as effective as the in-person course. A recent study that was published in the local news on Jacksonville’s First Coast News reported that one of the online courses that is approved for areas like St. Augustine, could actually be completed by a dog as well as person. The study actually took the course to find out if, in fact, the computer program requires any type of functioning from the person taking it, and it did not. The class is designed to cover material in four (4) hours and what they found is that as long as a person logged onto the website and paid for the court, they got the certification after the program ran its course. The report basically verified what Jacksonville courts have pushed, that the in-person course, such as those provided at Hope Haven, are better for the parents to attend because there is actually a value to the in-person class setting and knowing that the parents are participating in the program.
The classes intent is to teach parents to handle the fact that their children are going to be going from one home to the other. It is also designed to assist parents in better communicating with one another as they co-parent from different homes, and to communicate more effectively with the kids without disparaging the other parent.
If you are going through a divorce or paternity case in Duval, Clay or St. Johns County, you should speak to an attorney about the court’s requirements on you during your case and understand your rights and options.