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Required Parenting Education Courses for Divorcing Parents

Divorce, separation and paternity actions are draining – every person involved, mom, dad, and child(ren), are going through transitions and learning how to navigate unknown territory. In recognition of how difficult these transitions can be, Wisconsin law has implemented a requirement that parents attend a parent education course, that is designed to help parties learn how to best handle the new circumstances.

Wisconsin Statute Section 767.401 states the Court should order the parties to attend an educational program that provides the parents with information concerning the effects of a divorce on children, discusses child development, family dynamics, what parents can do to make raising a child in a separated situation less stressful for the child, and/or provides training in parenting/co-parenting, if it believes the program would be in the best interest of the child(ren). The class cannot be longer than 4 hours and will only be informational, not therapeutic. Each party is responsible for their own attendance fee, which is typically $40-$60, if a fee is required at all.

There are some caveats to this requirement. If domestic abuse is an issue, the parties are not to attend the same class. In many instances, the Courts do not want both parties to attend the same class even without the presence of domestic abuse. The purpose of the class if provide a forum for parties to ask questions without the fear of repercussions. Therefore, if the parties do attend the same course, or somehow become aware of something that was said/done by the other party at the class, that information is not admissible in court. In addition, in some cases, if the children are above the age of 16, the Court may not require the parties to attend the program.

There are consequences if one or both parties fail to attend the program. The Court may refuse to refer the parties to mediation to discuss custody and placement terms if they have not completed the course.  If a party fails to attend the program or fails to pay any fees associated with the course, that party can be found in contempt of court. Some counties have specific rules that require a parent who fails to attend the program to be 100% responsible for the deposit of a Guardian ad Litem (attorney for the child(ren)). Additionally, if a party fails to attend and complete the program, the Court could refuse to hear a custody or placement motion filed by the party that failed to complete the course.

It is important to know the specific requirements for the educational program in your county. Please contact an experienced Family Law Attorney with Kaehne, Cottle, Pasquale and Associates, S.C. to discuss your options.

Divorce Lawyer Rachel Laborde. Family Attorney for Sheboygan Manitowoc Brown Ozuakee Fond du Lac Counties.