What is the Parenting Education Seminar?
The Parenting Education Seminar is a class or series of classes that give parents the information necessary to deal with their children and with each other during and after the divorce process. These seminars are meant to help the divorcing family through the traumas of divorce without putting more stress on the parties and their children.
What is taught in the Seminar?
The Parenting Plan Law requires (at a minimum) that the Seminars “educate parents concerning how to protect and enhance the child’s emotional development and informing the parents regarding the legal process. The seminar shall also include a discussion of alternative dispute resolution, marriage counseling, the judicial process, and common perpetrator attitudes and conduct involving domestic violence.” Parenting Education Seminars may also cover other topics related to divorce and its effect on a family.
How long is the Seminar?
The Parenting Plan Law requires a minimum of four hours of classroom time, but some Courts may require more time. Each individual Court decides the length of the required Parenting Education Seminar. Depending on the total amount of time required, the Seminar may be given in more than one session.
How much does this Seminar cost?
There is no set cost for the Seminar. In some judicial districts there will be a number of different seminar providers for a parent to choose from. Each of these providers will have their own fee schedule and some may offer a sliding scale based on the income of the parent.
What if I can’t afford to pay for the Seminar?
Upon proof of indigence by a parent, the Court may be able to waive the costs. In the alternative, the costs may be assessed as court costs.
Do I have to go to this Seminar with my spouse or ex-spouse? Do the children attend the Seminar?
Normally, both parents do not attend the same Seminar. In areas where there are few Seminars, one parent may be able to attend a Seminar in an adjoining county or judicial district in order to meet the requirement of attending the Seminar. The minor children do not attend the Seminar, however, there may be specific other programs available for your children about how a divorce will change their lives.
What happens if I don’t (or my spouse doesn’t) attend the Parenting Education Seminar?
In a contested divorce, the Court must consider whether a parent attended the required seminar when determining whether there should be any limitations on parenting time or decision-making. T.C.A. § 36-6-404(b)(4). The Court cannot prevent a divorce decree from issuing solely on the basis of the parents not attending the Seminar, but a parent who does not attend the Seminar within the time specified by the Court runs the risk of Contempt of Court. A parent who does not complete the required Seminar may be held in Contempt even if the divorce decree has issued. Contempt of Court may involve a jail sentence.
Where are these Seminars held?
The local Court Clerk will give you brochures or other materials from Seminar providers in your area. These materials will have information such as times and locations of the Seminars and the costs of the Seminars. You will need to contact the provider of your choice to set up attendance at the next available Seminar.
The University of Tennessee Extension Office offers Seminars in 65 counties across the State. You can access a county's extension web site by going to the UT Extension website and clicking on the “Local Offices” link in the top left column. This will bring up a state map. Click on the county location. This will take you to the county web page for the local UT Extension office information.
If I am in family counseling or therapy, does that count as a Parenting Education Seminar?
No. The emphasis of most family counseling or family therapy is different than the emphasis of the Parenting Education Seminars. Therefore, family counseling and therapy cannot replace the Seminar.