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Study explores whether online co-parenting classes need changes

When a couple with children makes the decision to pursue a divorce, there is a very good chance that they will be required to take some type of co-parenting class designed to teach them how to meet the needs of their children during this difficult time and how to deal with their various responses to new living arrangements.

Indeed, at least 46 states -- including Minnesota -- mandate that parents must take anywhere from two to six hours of co-parenting classes before a divorce will be granted.

Thanks to advances in modern technology, however, parents no longer have to sit in unfamiliar classrooms for prolonged periods, but rather can complete their co-parenting classes from the comfort of their home over the Internet.

Interestingly, a researcher at the University of Illinois recently published the results of a study examining the sufficiency of these online co-parenting classes and reached some fascinating conclusions.

While a complete breakdown of the study is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, the study author did determine that, in general, online co-parenting classes do a very good job of helping parents prepare for their children's various responses to divorce and providing strategies for helping them adapt.

However, the study, which examined responses gathered from 1,543 people who took an online co-parenting course, found that more work needs to be done to address the mental wellbeing of the parents themselves, many of whom are dealing with residual anger or grief that may affect their ability to help their family adjust.

"Programs could be improved by adding content that helps parents address their emotional needs so they would be better equipped to help their children through the transition period," said the researcher.

In addition, the researcher suggests that since these online classes are taken between the actual filing of the divorce papers and the securing of the final divorce decree, they often fail to address important familial issues that can arise in the meantime, including the introduction of a new partner, blended families and even potential remarriage.

It will be interesting to see if the authors of the seemingly innumerable online co-parenting classes take these findings into account. In the meantime, those people with questions about divorce, child custody and other divorce-related issues here in Minnesota should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

Source: PsychCentral, "No Easy Online Answers for Divorcing Co-Parents," Rick Nauert, Aug. 28, 2014

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