A recent change, codifying the ability to attend a required parenting program online, is a step in the right direction to making the family court in Arizona more user [and family] friendly. When an action is filed in Maricopa County with a minor child, requiring a determination of legal decision-making [custody], parenting time or child support, the parents are court ordered to attend a parenting program under A.R.S. §23-351 et seq. and Administrative Order 2013-020. Although the mandated parenting program has been in existence for some time, the parents are no longer required to attend a live in-person program, or seek specific judicial permission. Instead they may now opt for an online program. By allowing parents to take the requisite 4-hour program online, the legislature and courts have eliminated the potential need [and expense] of the parent for childcare, cut-out time spent commuting and thus allow the parent to choose the date and time schedule that best works for them. Parents are able to take the course in the comfort of their home, office, or a wherever they deem appropriate, at whatever time they choose, and can even participate in the program in stages. The Arizona statutes require the Superior Court in each county to adopt and implement an education program for the purpose of providing education about the impact of divorce on adults and children, with the Supreme Court tasked with adopting minimum standards for such programs. In Arizona, those minimum standards include:
- The emotional, psychological, financial, physical and other short-term and long-term effects of divorce on adults and children.
- Options available as alternatives to divorce.
- Resources available to improve or strengthen marriage.
- The legal process of divorce and options available for mediation.
- Resources available after divorce.
- Information regarding the notification requirements of section 25-403.05, subsection B (restrictions with regard to sex offenders, murder and other criminal convictions).
Additionally, in Maricopa County the classes should include education on the following topics:
- Common reactions by children and parents to divorce and separation.
- Helpful and harmful parent behaviors.
- Communication and co-parenting skills.
- Harmful effects on children from parental conflict, including domestic violence.
- Children’s reactions to divorce and separation at different developmental stages and warning signs of serious problems.
- Responsibility of parents to provide emotional support and financial support to children.
- Factors which contribute to healthy adjustment for children including the value of parenting plans.
- Basic Arizona family court procedures.
- Issues surrounding continued access to maternal and paternal relatives.