If I Am Going Through a Divorce, Am I Required to Participate in any Court-Sponsored Educational Programs?

When parents in New Jersey are involved in a divorce case, they are required by law to participate in the New Jersey Parent Education Program before the entry of a Final Judgment of Divorce can be entered by the Court. In 1999, New Jersey adopted the Parents’ Education Act known as N.J.S.A. 2A:34-12.3. Each year, a government-appointed advisory committee updates the New Jersey Parents’ Education Program curriculum to reflect constantly evolving issues in family law cases. 

The Parent Education Class provides parents with the tools and resources necessary to co-parent and take care of their children during and after the divorce. The program is geared toward assisting and counseling divorcing parents on issues related to child custody disputes and promote cooperation between the parties to co-parent and resolve outstanding issues. In accordance with the law, an additional $25 registration fee is required at the time of the filing of the Complaint for Divorce or a responsive pleading in those cases in which the custody or support of a minor child is an issue. If a litigant cannot afford the cost, a party can file a written application for a fee waiver.

As set forth in the statute, the purpose of the program is to promote cooperation between the parties and to assist parents in resolving issues which may arise during the divorce or separation process, including, but not limited to:

  • Understanding the legal process and cost of divorce or separation, including arbitration and mediation;
  • Understanding the financial responsibilities for the children;
  • Understanding the interaction between parent and child, the family relationship, and other areas of adjustment and concern during the process of divorce or separation;
  • Understanding how children react to divorce or separation, how to spot problems, what to tell them about divorce or separation, how to keep communication open, and how to answer questions and concerns the children may have about the process;
  • Understanding how parents can help their children during the divorce or separation, specific strategies, ideas, tools, and resources for assistance;
  • Understanding how parents can help children after the divorce or separation on how to deal with new family structures and different sets or rules; and
  • Understanding that cooperation may sometimes be inappropriate in cases of domestic violence.

You and your spouse will not be scheduled for the same parenting class on the same date at the same time, and separate dates will be assigned to each parent. If you have been a victim of domestic violence, it is important to inform the Court as this program may not be appropriate for you. You will not have to complete the program if you have a temporary or final restraining order against your spouse, and the court may exempt a parent from participation for good cause.

The Parent Education Program is typically presented by a Custody and Parenting Time Mediator in the county in which the matrimonial action has been filed. It is a one-time session which generally lasts between two and three hours and provides an opportunity for parents to ask questions in a group setting which is advantageous to all participating parents.

If you have any questions regarding the New Jersey Parent Education Program, issues concerning child custody, parenting time, child support or other child-related issues, contact the experienced family law team at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf to schedule a consultation to discuss the specific facts of your matter. At Cohn Lifland, the family law attorneys have expertise in this area of family law and are able to answer your questions and provide sound legal advice based upon years of experience in navigating the court system.