November 19th, 2014
A new law took effect in Oklahoma on November 1 that requires divorcing couples to attend a class if underage children are involved.
Couples with children, age 18 or under, seeking divorce on grounds of incompatibility will have to take a class on the effects of divorce in children. Additionally, they will have to pay to attend the class.
This measure was enacted in an effort to lower Oklahoma’s divorce rate, as well as to help children cope with their parents’ separation.
“I think that it is a good idea, I think parents will think about the divorce and impact that it has on the children and it will help them see the consequences,” said Teresa Deck, Director of Counseling at Oklahoma City’s Sunbeam Family Services.
The courses will include topics such as the effects of divorce on children, family violence consequences, reconciliation options, conflict-resolution and co-parenting strategies, as well as family service resources.
However, some experts have some serious concerns about the new law.
Oklahoma City attorney Gail Stricklin says the law presents a danger to victims of domestic violence who are attempting to leave an abusive relationship.
“We all want to encourage someone to get away from an abusive relationship, but if you are in the same parenting class, which in many counties is the only option, you are going to have some incidents,” Stricklin added.
At this time, the law gives no particular exemption for victims of violence. There is a general “good cause” exception, meaning a judge will decide which couples are exempt from attending the program.
Both partners must present a certificate of completion to move forward with divorce proceedings.
Classes will range between $15 and $60.
Judges will decide how many hours are necessary on a case by case basis. The program must be finished within 45 days of the initial divorce filing.
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