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Parenting classes in child custody cases

Most divorcing Florida parents who have minor children living with them are required to take the state's Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. The legislature has codified this requirement in the state's family laws for several reasons.

The state believes that children whose parents divorce face emotional, educational and economic consequences because of the conflicts between their parents, and it believes that the effects are worsened when the legal disputes are lengthy. Because of this, the legislature feels that parents are likelier to keep their children's best interests in mind if they are taught about the different factors courts consider when making child custody and visitation decisions.

The goal of the requirement is to help parents to minimize conflict in order to better protect their children during and after their divorces. In the class, parents are taught about the legal process involved with resolving child custody disputes, the emotional impact of family problems on children, the problems that divorcing parents face and the community resources that are available to them. The legislature indicates its belief that parents receive a greater benefit from the course when it is required early on in the divorce process.

Child custody is often one of the most contentious aspects when parents who have minor children decide to end their marriage. Although it is fairly customary for a court to grant joint legal custody to both parents, which means that they will each have input into certain decisions regarding their children's welfare, the issue of physical custody is less clear. There have been attempts to make joint physical custody the default position, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed proposed legislation that would have had that effect. As a result, it may be advisable for a parent to have the assistance of counsel when trying to negotiate a custody agreement.

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