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New Oklahoma law expands education program required before parents divorce

Oklahoma's governor has signed a law requiring educational programs for divorcing parents who have children under 18. It amends a law that already lets courts require such classes, following a model common in many states and localities around the country. But it adds a few new topics, to help couples work on their marriage, if they want, as well as their coparenting. It also teaches communication and cooperation skills that are useful for the current marriage, and/or for divorced co-parenting, and for later relationships with others if they do divorce. The relevant part reads:

B. In actions for divorce based upon incompatibility filed on or after November 1, 2014, where the interest of a child under eighteen (18) years of age is involved, the adult parties shall attend, either separately or together, an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children. The program shall include the following components:

1. Short-term and longitudinal effects of divorce on child well-being;

2. Reconciliation as an optional outcome;

3. Effects of family violence;

4. Potential child behaviors and emotional states during and after divorce including information on how to respond to the child's needs;

5. Communication strategies to reduce conflict and facilitate cooperative coparenting; and

6. Area resources, including but not limited to nonprofit organizations or religious entities available to address issues of substance abuse or other addictions, family violence, behavioral health, individual and couples counseling, and financial planning.

Program attendees shall be required to pay a fee of not less than Fifteen Dollars ($15.00) and not more than Sixty Dollars ($60.00) to the program provider to offset the costs of the program. A certificate of completion shall be issued upon satisfying the attendance and fee requirements of the program, and the certificate of completion shall be filed with the court. The program provider shall carry general liability insurance and maintain an accurate accounting of all business transactions and funds received in relation to the program. The program shall be completed prior to the temporary order or within forty-five (45) days of receiving a temporary order. However, and in all events, a final disposition of child custody shall not be granted until the parties complete the program required by this subsection. The court may waive attendance of the program for good cause shown.

C. Each judicial district may adopt its own local rules governing the program programs.

D. The Administrative Office of the Courts may enter into a memorandum of understanding with a state entity or other organization in order to compile data including but not limited to the number of actions for divorce that were dismissed after participating in the program, the number of programs that were completed and the number of program participants for each fiscal year. The report shall include data collected from each judicial district. The report shall be published on the Administrative Office of the Courts website and distributed to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Minority Leader of the Senate.

 

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