On the Tennessee Parent Education Class

Note: The following post, like all on the Collaborative Compound, is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship.  Nor is it the solicitation of an attorney-client relationship.  Legal advice you have to pay for. ONWARD AND UPWARD!! 

I’ve covered several topics in regards to the Parenting Plan recently, more specifically how to fill one out without going through the court process and hiring a lawyer.  There’s one section that bugs me, though, and it’s the issue of the required “parent education seminar.”  In today’s post, I want to discuss this requirement, why it’s important, and give you a framework on how to select a class that will provide lasting results from your investment of time and money.

The Tennessee legislature adopted the requirement of a Parent Education Seminar in 1997, with the passage of what is now 36-6-408 of the Tennessee Code.  It requires each parent to attend a “parent education seminar” of no less than “four (4) hours in duration” that covers topics regarding “how to protect and enhance the child’s emotional development” and “informing the parents regarding the legal process.”  Each class has to consider the following topics:

1. Alternative Dispute Resolution, or Mediation
2. Marriage Counseling
3. The Judicial Process
4. Common themes involving domestic violence.

The class is mandatory, and your children are excused from attending it.  You can have the requirement waived “upon motion” and by the court finding “good cause” for the requirement to be waived.  As the Parenting Plan states, failure to attend a class within 60 days of the Plan’s entry is punishable by contempt.

Numerous providers in Tennessee offer the Parent Education Seminar.  Some do so weekly.  The classes range in duration and in the number of sessions one has to attend, but all will require at least a total of four hours’ worth of your time.  Do a Google search and you’re likely to find a few good providers in your area.

You should have little to no issues finding a suitable provider.  The question now becomes this: which class do you select?  Are you going to go for the longer sessions, or do you invest in a short form class that will give you the most “bang for your buck?”  My suggestion is that you think in this fashion: how much education do you really get out of four hours’ instruction?

If you count the pre-show, most televised sporting events run in four hours’ time.  If you’re a football fan, you’re looking at squeezing in a life’s worth of education into the time it takes to watch one game.  By getting a minimum four hour parent education seminar, you’re telling yourself you can get all the education you need to move forward in your life in the span of a sporting event. That doesn’t sound like an “education seminar,” it sounds like a chance to cheat yourself out of valuable knowledge you’ll need for the rest of your life post-divorce.

I’m not suggesting by any means that you need to enroll in the longest class possible either.  We all have commitments, and taking four hours out of your life is a major chunk of a day.  You’re not just completing work with this class, though–you’re giving yourself information that will help you become a better parent and a more informed person.  Therefore, I suggest you take some time to educate yourself about the providers in your area.  Do some “preliminary” homework and call those classes you think you may attend.  Ask the providers what subjects they cover, how in-depth they cover the subjects, and how long each class session actually lasts.  Proper planning on the front end will net you considerable results in this endeavor, and you’ll find your time more fulfilling as you’ll be invested in the final class you plan to attend.

When you attend the class, be an active participant.  Ask questions and take notes.  The goal of each provider is to empower you with knowledge, so make sure you get something for the money you’re spending. I’m not telling you to force yourself into being an extroverted “head of the class” type; rather I’m suggesting you make it a point to gain something from this requirement.  If you participate actively, it’s going to seem like less of a chore and more of a worthy investment.  To steal a phrase from a colleague of mine, if you don’t have any skin in the game then you’re not going to be as invested.

The Parent Education Seminar is one of those issues that requires some attention and planning.  If you do it right, and you start your homework right after filing of the divorce Complaint, you’ll be better off with a more fulfilling provider in the long run.  You will gain greater knowledge and retain more useful information with active participation, and you will feel more invested if you give yourself a chance to learn in a greater duration span than the mere four hour minimum.

It’s your life, and your education.  Just like a college, take some time to pick the right one for you and invest wisely.

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