Court Mandated Programs in Domestic Relations Cases: The Parenting Seminar.
Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.8 sets out that Superior Courts may establish a program to educate parents in family law cases as to the possible effects of divorce cases and the like on the children. Most but not all Superior Courts in Georgia have established such a program.
A judge in a divorce case has the authority to order the parties to attend the seminar, and may refuse to grant a final order of divorce unless the parties comply with the requirement to attend. The court is also authorized to hold a party in contempt and/or award attorney’s fees upon a party’s failure to attend the course. The court may also give a party permission to take a similar course in a different county than the county where the case is pending.
The court is also permitted to contract with a private company for the provision of the seminar. The court or the private agency may require a fee be paid to attend the seminar. Most seminars in fact require the payment of a fee.
Most programs provide a variety of dates and times when the course is offered, such as on weekends and in the evening. Some counties provide the course in languages other than English, most commonly in Spanish.
Rule 24.8 was adopted in 1994. In my experience, in the early days of the parenting seminar programs, many or most of my clients said it was a waste of time and money. But over the last ten years or so, most if not all of my clients have indicated that the program was good and they were glad that they were required to participate in it. I suspect that it was changes in the program over the years that has made it more appealing to the end users.
I attended the program about 10 years ago so that I would have firsthand information to share with my clients about the course. It was a good experience. The courses are designed in part to get the parties to stop thinking about themselves so much and instead to focus on the children and the best interest of the children. When a marriage with minor children fails, there will obviously be changes in the lives of the children and the parents. Obviously they will no longer be living under the same roof. This is a big adjustment for the children, when mom or dad is no longer there all of the time. The course offers thoughtful ways for parents to talk with their children about these changes, without beating up the other parent in the process. The kids still love both of their parents and a divorce does not change that. Both parents need to understand and respect this, or their children will suffer.
If you are in a divorce case and you are ordered to attend the divorcing parent’s seminar, please do so with an open mind and make the best of it. You can learn something about how to be a divorced parent, which are lessons you may have never encountered before.