If you are a parent who has recently filed for divorce, you may have received orders to attend the Parent Education Program at your county superior court. This mandatory 3 hour program is presented by a family mediator, who walks parents through the legal process of family mediation. The program also includes presentations by social workers, who will address the various challenges that children face in the event of a divorce.
Many parents initially regard the program as an inconvenience, especially if they work full-time and have primary custody of the children. The program seems even more of a nuisance if they get along with their spouse, and their children appear to be adjusting well to the changes. It's important, however, to keep an open mind about what you can learn from these professionals. Even if your children are doing well now, it's very likely that issues will arise in the future as you move on with your lives. For you and your spouse, these changes may include new partners, career changes and moving to another state, all of which may be difficult for your children to deal with. Social workers at the program will teach you effective and compassionate ways to help your children through these issues.
In addition to help for your children, the program offers information about mediation, which is an alternative to the traditional litigation process. Mediation is a series of private negotiation meetings between the divorcing spouses and a state certified mediator. Parents work as a team, with or without their attorneys in order to resolve issues pertaining to custody, visitation and child support. Mediation can be an important part of the co-parenting process, since it requires you to work through difficult topics in a civil manner.
Depending on your situation, cooperative divorce methods such as mediation may not be a
possibility. While encouraging cooperation, the Parent Education Program acknowledges that it may be awkward, or even dangerous for divorcing spouses to be in the same space. Hence, the law specifically requires that each parent attend a separate program, and that anyone with a restraining order is barred from attending. It's also important to note that the program is for information purposes only. Legal advice, especially for contentious divorces, or marriages involving sensitive issues can only be obtained from a qualified divorce attorney. Even if you anticipate a friendly divorce, you should at least have an attorney review any proposed settlement agreements prior to signing. This is extremely important with mediation agreements, which cannot be appealed as a general rule since you entered into it voluntarily.
For more information about the Parent Education Program, and other intervention programs offered by the New Jersey Courts, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers are divorce mediators and early settlement panelists, as well as trial attorneys with 20 plus years of
experience. They will be happy to advise you of all your available divorce options during a free initial consultation.