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House judiciary panel hears bill to mandate parenting education in divorce cases

Divorce is rarely easy, and when children are involved, they often suffer hardships.

To reduce the negative effects of divorce on parents and children, Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) sponsors HF348, which would require divorcing parents who have not agreed to custody or parenting time to attend a parenting education program.

“I think this is a small thing that we can do to really help kids and parents cope with dissolving families,” she said.

As amended, the bill was laid over Thursday by the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF525, sponsored by Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point), awaits action by the Senate Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.

The bill would require courts to list parenting education program information on their websites, and allow parents to take a parenting education class online.

It would also require divorcing parents to complete the class before the initial case management conference, unless otherwise ordered by the court, and to receive information by the court on how to resolve disagreements through mediation.

Scott said parent education programs would need to meet standards approved by the state Supreme Court in order to be an approved parenting class subject to court order. Courses typically cost less than $100, Scott said, adding that parents with qualifying low-income levels could get their tuition waived.

Diane Anderson, a former state representative, said parenting education classes such as the Parents Forever program have proven to be very effective in lowering conflicts between parents and from exposing children to the damaging effects of conflicts.

“Parents who attended the divorce education classes have lower re-litigation rates than those who did not attend,” she said.


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