All parties to a Florida divorce proceeding with minor children or a paternity action that involves issues of parental responsibility are required to complete the “Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course” prior to having their case finalized. Florida Statute §61.21 outlines the rationale for requiring parents to complete this course, stating, “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 effects during this difficult period of family transition. This is particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict. Parents are more likely to consider the best interest 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.”
The law goes on to encourage parties to attend the program at the earliest stages of their family law dispute, before extensive litigation has ensued, believing that parents are more likely to receive the maximum benefit of the program if completed early. In fact, the law requires that both parties have completed the course within 45 days from the date of filing the action or within 45 days of being served with an action.
The course must be a minimum of 4 hours long and the Department of Children and Families is charged with the responsibility of approving the courses approved and providing each judicial circuit with a list of approved courses.