When it comes to divorce and divorce-related issues, you would probably think that the laws in the majority of states were fairly concrete, meaning they have been in place for a significant amount of time and cover most any situation that is likely to arise. In other words, you wouldn't expect to see many state legislatures advancing many new divorce-related measures.
As we've shown on our blog multiple times before, however, lawmakers are frequently looking for ways to introduce changes to the divorce process. Indeed, the state to make headlines most recently for its efforts to amend the divorce process is Alabama, where one lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require all divorcing parents to go back to school.
Sponsored by state Rep. Bill Poole (R-Northport), the measure would require that all parents in the midst of divorce or separation proceedings attend a four-hour class designed to help them learn more about how their impending split will affect their children. Specifically, the class teaches parents about such issues as the importance of post-divorce cooperation and how children of different ages are affected by divorce.
The legislation dictates that the class, which would cost each parent a maximum of $75, could either be taken online (if permitted by the local jurisdiction) or as a live session taught by a licensed professional.
"The purpose of the bill is to simply provide a moment for parents to pause and get a little bit of assistance and direction to focus on the children," said Poole. "Children get stuck in the middle and become pawns in the divorce process sometimes."
Couples could be excused from taking the class by a judge under any of the following circumstances:
- The parents speak a language that the course is not offered in.
- The parents don't have access to the Internet and a live session is not readily available.
- There is an underlying domestic violence issue that precludes safe participation.
- There are emergency circumstances that otherwise prevent parents from attending.
While some have expressed concern that the bill would create an unacceptable barrier to divorce, supporters indicate that bills like Poole's are already in place in the majority of the states and have proven incredibly effective in reducing post-divorce litigation among parents (i.e., legal disputes regarding child-access, change-of-custody, etc.).
Statistics from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts show that 48 states currently offer some type of parenting class for divorced parents. For example, here in Minnesota, parents are required to take classes in the event they unable to reach an agreement on parenting time.
What are your thoughts on Alabama's proposed bill?
Those with questions or concerns regarding child custody, child support or other divorce-related matters here in Minnesota, should strongly consider consulting with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and enforce your rights.
Source: USA Today, "Ala. looks at mandating divorce classes for parents," Kala Kachma, Feb. 25, 2014