Couples with children who want to get divorced in Illinois are required to take a parenting class, even if the divorce is uncontested. The class can be arranged through the parents or through a family law attorney who is handling the divorce.
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What are Class Requirements?
The Illinois Supreme Court requires a parenting class for all couples with children who file for a divorce in the state of Illinois. Regardless of divorce circumstances or parental relationships, the parenting class is mandatory according to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294. The following rules apply:
- Program – The program requires each circuit or county to create and approve a parenting education program. A mandatory parenting class must be at least four hours long and cover the subjects of parenting time, custody allocation, visitation, and the impact of parental responsibilities on the children.
- Attendance – All divorce parties must attend and complete an approved parenting class. The class must be taken as soon as possible, but not later than 60 days after an initial case management conference is held with a family law attorney. In the case of lack of jurisdiction over the respondent or default, only the petitioning party is required to attend the class.
- Exceptions – Unless the court excuses the parenting class for good cause, both parents must attend. For the court to excuse attendance, good reason must be documented in the record and a finding must be made that excusing attendance of one or both parents is in the best interest of the children.
- Sanctions – The Illinois Supreme Court may impose sanctions on any party that willfully fails to complete the parenting class within the required time limits.
Getting out of a parenting class in Illinois is nearly impossible. It requires filing a motion in court and the judge’s approval. In most Illinois divorce cases, motions to dismiss parenting classes are denied.
Are Online Classes Permitted?
Due to work and personal time commitments, many parents opt for online parenting classes, but the county in which the divorce case is filed determines online availability. Permission and availability is typically broken down by county.
In Illinois, couples who file divorce cases in Cook County and DuPage County are permitted to take the online parenting class without any special permission from the court. Divorce cases filed through a family law attorney in these counties must be uncontested to qualify for online classes. Couples in a contested divorce are required to attend in-person classes.
Some Illinois counties require permission from the court to take an online parenting class. Without court permission, an in-person parenting class is mandatory. Although both parents are required to attend the parenting class, most courts do not allow both parents to attend the class at the same time. Even if the divorce is amicable, most courts require parents to attend different class sessions.
Couples filing for divorce outside Cook County or DuPage County should check with their family law attorney to ensure online parenting classes are permitted by the court in the county where their divorce is filed..
What Does the Parenting Class Cost?
The costs for Illinois parenting classes may vary between jurisdictions. In Cook County, the online parenting class is about $40, while the online class in DuPage County is slightly higher. In Will County where online classes are not offered, an in-person parenting class costs around $70. For class information and accurate costs, it’s important to check requirements in the county where the divorce case is filed:
Proof of Class Completion
Approved parenting classes in Illinois provide a certificate of completion when a parent has successfully completed the class. In-person classes provide a certificate at the end of each class session, while online classes provide an electronic certificate of completion. This certificate will be necessary to get an Illinois divorce. It is the responsibility of each party to make sure that they can obtain a certificate of completion for parenting classes prior to the court date.
It’s important to note that the internet offers a variety of Illinois parenting classes, but only court approved classes will be accepted when granting a divorce. For example, in McHenry County, rules state that the parenting class must be overseen by the Chief Judge or his/her official designee. That means parents filing for divorce in McHenry County cannot take parenting classes other than the one designated by the court.
The regulations for Illinois parenting classes are strict. Parents should not take a random internet-based parenting class just to save time and money. To ensure enrollment in a court-approved parenting class, couples should make class arrangements through their Illinois family law attorney who is familiar with specific county requirements and restrictions.