Silly you, you thought learning ended at high school or college graduation, didn’t you? Then a boss handed you a computer program’s 300-page manual and said, “Spend your weekend learning this program so you can use it Monday.” Then your staff sergeant informed you  that you’ve “volunteered” for special training. Then a Virginia judge told you to attend parenting classes.

Why Do I Have to Take Parenting Classes?

You may be asking, “Why me?!” We assure you that Virginia’s courts are not picking on you. The classes are not a judgment of your ability to change a diaper or weather a teenage temper tantrum. They are meant to get your head inside your kids’ heads and help you see how your children are dealing with separation and divorce.

Virginia Code § 16.1-278.15 tells us:

  • In cases involving the custody, visitation or support of a child pursuant to subdivision A 3 of § 16.1-241, the court may make any order of disposition to protect the welfare of the child and family as may be made by the circuit court. The parties to any petition where a child whose custody, visitation, or support is contested shall show proof that they have attended within the 12 months prior to their court appearance or that they shall attend within 45 days thereafter an educational seminar or other like program conducted by a qualified person or organization approved by the court. 

Want your kid? Take a class. It’s really that cut and dried. You cannot sign up for any ol’ class willy-nilly, either. You have to take court-approved courses in parenting.

Why is Virginia compelling you to take parenting classes? To protect Virginia’s vulnerable, largely helpless citizens, the children of the Commonwealth. Courts are legally bound to uphold the “best interests of the child” in all that they do, so they require you — both of you, you and your separated or divorced ex — to take classes.

The goal is to attune you to what your children are going through as you and their other parent separate and divorce. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

The Details of Court Approved Parenting Classes

The same law provides some minimum structure to these classes:

  • The seminar or other program shall be a minimum of four hours in length and shall address the effects of separation or divorce on children, parenting responsibilities, options for conflict resolution and financial responsibilities. Once a party has completed one educational seminar or other like program, the required completion of additional programs shall be at the court’s discretion.

By law also, the course cannot cost you more than $50 and even that small amount can be lower if your economic circumstances affect your ability to pay.

Where are these court-approved classes? The Division of Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) maintains an updated list of providers. A recent check showed 40 providers, including classes in Spanish, offering webinar classes.

You can also get much more information about the classes from the Virginia Court system’s own dedicated page about the topic. Your attorney can help you understand the court’s Order of Referral (coming either from Circuit Court or Juvenile & Domestic Court).

Embrace the Opportunity Without Excuses

Parents who vocally claim to be willing to do anything for their children may be on the spot to back those words with action. The court-approved classes are a minimum of four hours. And you (or your ex) will not be able to offer any excuse not already foreseen by the courts and rejected:

  • We were never married — “If child custody, support or visitation is contested, then both parents must attend the seminar, whether they were ever married or not. The seminar is not divorce education; it is parent education which is beneficial whether parents were never married, are divorced, or still are married.”
  • I’m already a good parent — “The requirement that you take this seminar is not a judgment of your parenting skills. The seminar focuses on how parents can mitigate the negative effects of separation and divorce on their children, how they can parent from two separate homes and how to better resolve co-parenting conflicts.”
  • The other parent and I don’t speak to each other — “The focus of the seminar is on how you can help your children and how you can more effectively parent from two separate homes.  The seminar may assist you and your co-parent in identifying a variety of methods of communication, while keeping your children out of the middle.”

Embrace the opportunity to review your separation and divorce from your children’s perspective. Find insights into dealing with their stress and yours. Acknowledge the burden you are putting on your kids. Take the class, cheerfully and eagerly, and show the judge you, too, are working “in the best interests of the child.”

Call The Custody Attorneys for Dads!

From helping you become a better parent to protecting your financial future, the experienced attorneys at The Firm For Men can help you. Contact us today or telephone our Virginia Beach offices at (757) 383-9184.