Divorce and/or a custody battle is stressful enough. Illinois family law and family courts think you should be assigned some homework in the middle of it all…parenting classes. In Illinois, you can’t finalize your divorce or your custody litigation until both parents have completed the court ordered parenting class.
Why Do I Have To Take A Parenting Class In An Illinois Divorce?
If you have kids, you have to take a parenting class before getting divorced in Illinois because the Illinois Supreme Court mandates parenting classes.
“Each circuit or county shall create or approve a parenting education program consisting of at least four hours covering the subjects of parenting time and allocation of parental responsibilities and their impact on children.” Illinois Supreme Court Rule 924.
Furthermore, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Of Marriage Act recommends a parenting class pre-divorce.
“In an action for dissolution of marriage involving minor children, or in a post-judgment proceeding involving minor children, the court may on its own motion order the parties, excluding the minor children, to attend an educational program concerning the effects of dissolution of marriage on the children, if the court finds that it would be in the best interests of the minor children. The program may be divided into sessions, which in the aggregate shall not exceed 4 hours in duration. The program shall be educational in nature and not designed for individual therapy.” 750 ILCS 5/404.1(a)
Finally, if you’re a resident of Cook County, Illinois, you are mandated by local court rules to take the class or you will not be granted a divorce.
“No final judgment regarding allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time or relocation shall be entered without the filing of the parties’ certificates of completion” Cook County Court Rule 13.4(f)(ix)
How Do I Take The Parenting Class In My Cook County Divorce?
There are two parenting classes that the Cook County domestic relations courts accept
- Focus on Children. Focus on Children is an in-person class offered in Chicago, Skokie and Bridgeview. To schedule an appointment with Focus on Children call (312)603-1540
- Children In Between Online. Children In Between Online is an online course. To schedule an online class follow the instructions in this brochure
Who Pays For The Parenting Class In An Illinois Divorce?
“The fees or costs of educational sessions under this Section shall be borne by the parties and may be assessed by the court as it deems equitable.” 750 ILCS 5/404.1(c)
Both Focus On Children and Children In Between Online cost $ 50. Each parent always pays for their own class.
What If I Didn’t Take The Parenting Class, Forgot To Take The Parenting Class, or Don’t Want To Take The Parenting Class?
You have to attend a parenting class “[e]xcept when excused by the court for good cause shown” Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294(a) and Cook County Court Rule 13.4(f)(vi)
If you get to your final court hearing and have not done your class, you can ask the judge to waive the attendance at the parenting class for almost any valid reason. My favorite excuse for failure to comply is “these folks have been parenting for a long time already.”
The worst thing that can happen is that the judge orders you to complete the parenting class after the divorce is finalized or the judge continues your final hearing until you do complete the parenting class (this never happens anymore in my experience).
“The court may impose sanctions on any party willfully failing to complete the program.” Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294(c)
If you have to take a parenting class, you’re either getting divorced or involved in some kind of custody litigation. Contact my Chicago, Illinois family law office to talk with an experienced family law attorney about your situation.