The Illinois Supreme Court rules require all parents involved in a child custody case, whether contentious or not, to enroll in parent education classes. Even if the one parent defaults or fails to participate in the proceedings, the other parent is required to attend the parent education class.Each Circuit Court or county may create its own parenting education program, provided it consists of at least four hours and covers visitation, custody and the impact both have on children. Each parent is required to attend the parent education class no later than 60 days after there is an initial case management conference. The Court may impose sanctions of its choosing on parents who fail to attend the class as required, without showing good cause as to why their attendance should be excused. The Circuit Court of Cook County has two approved parent education courses: one in-person class and an online option. Parents are able to choose the course. However, there is one exception. Parents who are ordered to attend mediation or emergency intervention must attend the in-person classes. The goal of parent education classes is give parents tools to help minimize the stress marital conflict can have on their children and to help them learn how to have a non-adversarial relationship after the divorce. The better the relationship between the parents post-divorce, the easier the divorce and its aftermath will be on the children. While parents work their way through the custody process, the classes provide them with skills to promote healthier communication as a means to reduce conflict. The in-person course has three options, depending on where each couple is in the child custody process:
- Pre-decree class: Parents in the process of a divorce or civil union dissolution.
- Post-decree class: Parents who have custody issues arise after the marriage or civil union has already been dissolved.
- Parentage class: Unmarried parents with children.