Pursuant to Section 61.21 of the State of Florida Statutes, parents filing for divorce of minor children must take a Florida parenting class approved by the State of Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). This course, entitled, “Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course,” is four hours in length and may be taken in person, or online.
In the State of Florida, section 61.13(2) of the Florida Statutes mandates presumption of shared parental responsibility. A DCF approved course covers key elements of successful shared parenting, and touches on the basics of Florida law for divorces with minor children. Other mandated elements of the course include information related to grief stemming from divorce, and the reactions of adults and children.
Although the DCF requires that certain elements be taught, the scope and quality of DCF classes varies widely. Some are based heavily in research-supported information, while others present models that have no such support. For instance, even though the stages of death model developed by Kubler-Ross has never earned strong support as a stage model among scientists who study death, the model continues to appear in divorce education classes.
Although a four-hour class is not going to prevent or address every problem a divorcing couple will face, it can provide a solid foundation for dealing with common struggles of parents and children alike. A parenting class does not provide individual advice or therapy, yet it can educate parents about helpful strategies and tools such as conflict management, parenting skills specific to divorce, and stress management.
The diversity of information provided in various Florida parenting classes is matched by the diversity of professionals who administer such classes. Instructors included social workers, attorneys, marital and family therapists, and psychologists. The DCF mandates that at least one of the instructors hold a masters degree in a mental health-related field.
As was previously mentioned, courses are administered either in person, or online. Online format varies considerably, however, most online classes appear to be in text format. Some courses are offered in multimedia format (text, video and/or audio files). Courses may or may not include a quiz at the end the course, and courses vary with regard to user controls and progress monitoring.
DCF approved online courses are acceptable in most court jurisdictions throughout Florida. However, it is important to know whether such a course is acceptable where you will be filing. If offered, an online course typically affords the user much greater flexibility with twenty-four hour access. Most courses offer bookmarking, and some will yield a printable certificate immediately after course completion.
The Helping Children after Divorce website offers an online Florida divorce class that is approved by the Florida DCF. It offers the user a choice of video or text format. Course completion is regulated through a browser monitor that logs the user off after browser inactivity, and a timer keeps track of the time spent engaged with the course. After the user has reviewed the course materials for four hours, a personalized certificate of completion is immediately emailed to the user. No test or quiz is required for course completion.
Aside from course convenience, the user has access to course extras such as audio downloads for stress management, an ebook on reward systems for children, and a bonus course on stepfamilies that will be made available in the next two months. The stepfamily course will not add any time to completion of the Florida parenting class, and it is a logical and needed addition given the fact that most divorced parents will re-enter into a stepfamily.