LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Jan R. Kowalski | Jul 24, 2013

Mandatory Parenting Education

Mandatory Parenting Education

Your divorce can't be finalized until you have both taken the parenting classes. You are able to take them online.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 924entitled, “Parenting Education Requirement" provides:(a) Program.Each circuit or county shall create or approve a parenting education program consisting of at least four hours covering the subjects of visitation and custody and their impact on children.

(b) Mandatory Attendance.Except when excused by the court for good cause shown, all parties shall be required to attend and complete an approved parenting education program as soon as possible, but not later than 60 days after an initial case management conference. In the case of a default or lack of jurisdiction over the respondent, only the petitioning party is required to attend but if the respondent later enters an appearance or participates in postjudgment proceedings, then the party who has not attended the program shall attend. The court shall not excuse attendance unless the reason is documented in the record and a finding is made that excusing one or both parents from attendance is in the best interests of the child.

(c) Sanctions.The court may impose sanctions on any party willfully failing to complete the program.

Committee Comments Special Supreme Court Committee on Child Custody Issues

Parenting education can have a very positive impact on the outcome of a child custody proceeding. Parenting education encourages parents to think about the impact of their actions on their children and teaches parents to deal with adult problems in ways that avoid harm to their children.

Paragraph (a) requires each judicial circuit or county to create or approve a parenting education program and sets out the minimum requirements of such a program. Individual judicial circuits or counties may permit the circuit courts to impose additional educational requirements on one or all of the parties.

Paragraph (b) requires parenting education for all dissolution of marriage cases involving a child and all parentage cases, absent good cause shown. Compliance with the parenting education requirement will be reviewed at the initial case management conference. Parents are expected to complete parenting education not later than 60 days after the initial case management conference.

Paragraph (c) provides that sanctions may be imposed on parties who willfully fail to comply with the parenting education requirement.

Cook County Local Rule 13.4(f) provides as follows:

(f) Parenting Education Program - Parenting education programs are available to protect the child(ren)'s best interest pursuant to Section 404.1 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 924. The Circuit Court of Cook County has established an in class program called Focus on Children, and has authorized an online program to be used as an alternative to the in class program.

(i) For purposes of this rule 13.4(f), "authorized parenting education program" shall mean Focus on Children or the online parenting education program authorized by the Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division. The identity of the authorized online parenting education program shall be established by general order of the Domestic Relations Division.

(ii) All parents of minor children involved in any action involving custody or visitation, including post-decree proceedings for modification of custody or visitation or for removal, shall attend and complete an authorized parenting education program, except for good cause shown.

(iii) The authorized parenting education programs shall be educational in nature and not designed for individual therapy. Each program may be divided into sessions, which in the aggregate shall be a minimum of four (4) hours in duration.

(iv) Parties shall complete an authorized parenting education program within the time period set forth by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 924, unless excused by the Court, in its discretion, for good cause shown. A finding of good cause shall include a finding that excusing one or both parents from attendance is in the best interests of the child. If the Court excuses a party from attending an authorized parenting education program, the Court shall make a written finding in the record stating why the party is excused.

(v) Parties may complete the online authorized parenting education program without a court order. However, completion of the online authorized parenting education program shall occur no earlier than sixty (60) days prior to the initiation of the proceedings and no later than sixty (60) days after the initial case management conference

(vi) All parties ordered to mediation or emergency intervention shall be required to attend and complete the in class Focus on Children program, unless excused by the Court for good cause shown. Those parties who are referred to mediation shall complete Focus on Children prior to their first mediation date. For purposes of this paragraph, the parties= mediation intake date shall not be considered the first mediation date.

(vii) A party residing outside of Cook County, Illinois, may complete the authorized online parenting education program. If said party is ordered by the court to attend an in class parenting education program, the court may accept evidence of participation in a program similar to Focus on Children authorized by any court of competent jurisdiction in the state or county in which the party resides.

(viii) Within thirty (30) days of successfully completing an authorized parenting education program, the party shall file with the Clerk of the Circuit Court a certificate attesting to the party's successful completion of the program. A party's failure to complete an authorized parenting education program may result in sanctions imposed by the Court.

(ix) No final judgment regarding custody, visitation, or removal shall be entered without the filing of the parties' certificates of completion, unless attendance at an authorized parenting education program is excused by the Court for good cause shown or the Court in its discretion allows the parties additional time to file their certificates.

(x) The costs of authorized parenting education programs shall be established by general order of the Domestic Relations Division and shall be paid by the parties unless waived pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/5-105, 5/5-105.5, or Illinois Supreme Court Rule 298. Prior to registering for an authorized parenting education program, any party receiving a fee waiver shall notify the parenting education program of the waiver.

(xi) Parties registered for Focus on Children who do not complete the program or cancel their registration less than twenty-four (24) hours in advance may be required to re-register and may be required to pay an additional fee. Parties who do not complete the authorized online program within thirty (30) days of registration for the program may be required to re-register and may be required to pay an additional fee.

(xii) Nothing in these rules shall preclude the Court from ordering either party to attend additional authorized parenting education courses. Approved Online Provider

An approved online provider is The Center for Divorce Education’s Children in Between which is a 3-5 hour class You can get more information at www.online.divorce-education.com or call 740/594-2526 or toll free at 877/874-1365 or email them at [email protected]. The cost is $39.95 and is available in Spanish and they accept all major credit cards and paypal and provide military discounts

Approved In Person Provider

Focus on Children is the court-authorized in-class parenting education program. The program is offered through Cook County’s Marriage and Family Counseling Service (MFCS). The program is offered in both English and Spanish. You must have a court order to attend. If you have been ordered to attend mediation or emergency intervention, the court will require that you complete this program even if you have already completed Children in Between online. You must complete the Focus on Children program before you can attend mediation. After you complete the Focus on Children, you will receive a “Certificate of Completion," which is your proof for the court that you completed the program. The cost of the program is $25.00. Each parent is responsible for paying his or her own fee for the program, unless the fee is waived pursuant to a court order. The program offers three different classes.

  1. The pre-decree class is for those parties who are in the process of a marital or civil union dissolution.

  2. The post-decree class is for those parties whose marriage or civil union has been dissolved, but issues have arisen since the dissolution and they are now back in the court system.

  3. The parentage class is for unmarried parties who have children together.

Focus on Children is offered at the following locations in Cook County:

Chicago

Cook County Administration Building

69 West Washington, 10th Floor

Chicago, Illinois 60602

Suburban Municipal District Courthouses

Second Municipal District

Skokie Courthouse

5600 Old Orchard Road

Skokie, Illinois 60077

Fifth Municipal District

Bridgeview Courthouse

10220 S. 76th Avenue – Room 220

Bridgeview, Illinois 60455

Call 312-603-1550 for more information on the program or to sign up for a class. Please note that you must have a court order requiring you to attend Focus on Children prior to registering for a class.

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