Washington State Parenting Classes

How Parenting Classes Can Positively Impact the Welfare of Children of Divorce

Parenting Classes

Being a good parent is one of the most difficult jobs anyone ever takes on. Washington State provides access to (and sometimes mandates) parenting or co-parenting classes. These are good resources for social services, legal problems, court ordered counseling, probation or just for personal growth. Even online programs will supply a "Certificate of Completion" when the lessons are finished. If an online course is chosen, it has the advantage of being available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. A course syllabus will be provided and 24 hour phone support to assist with any questions.

Online Parenting Classes mean that parents can still work, attend school or care for personal commitments and complete their class assignments in their leisure time. These courses have been developed by professionals to inspire knowledgeable parenting. An A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau guarantees an excellent parenting program from a licensed provider.

Parenting and co-parenting classes are easy to take, low cost, and an effective way to improve methods of positive parenting with a reduction in family conflicts.

A 1998 government study gathered information about arrangements made for parenting classes and how they worked after a divorce. This study consisted of four distinct parts, each addressing a specific research question posed by the Gender and Justice Commission. The four parts illuminate larger goals in research on this topic.

Focus groups of parents in Washington State who had a court approved parenting plan were the first segment studied. Participants provided information about how they formulated their Parenting Plan; whether or not they were satisfied with the way the civil justice system assisted them; how they made use of their Parenting Plan; if they were satisfied with the Parenting Plan they had; and if they were able to follow their Plan with the help of parenting classes.

The findings from the focus group of parents concluded:

  • Many families are frustrated by the most common residential schedule of every other weekend.
  • The Civil justice system was hard to use and access for most parents.
  • Not many of the parents made use of joint decision-making.
  • The inability of enforcement methods when an ex-spouse is uncooperative was a major complication.
  • Those who had been victims of domestic violence often have Parenting Plans that they feel compromise their safety or that of their children even after the completion of parenting classes.
  • The focus group of providers —which included judges, attorneys, guardians ad litem, court commissioners, family law facilitators, parenting evaluators, mental health professionals, and various activists—concluded:

  • They are extremely supportive of the policy goals of the Parenting Act.
  • Formulating Parenting Plans through mediation and dispute resolution is best—except when domestic violence has been involved.
  • Very few Parenting Plans are tailored to the individual family.
  • Those who work closely with pro se litigants find that getting a finalized Parenting Plan is very difficult even after having completed parenting classes.
  • Parents' joint decision making doesn't seem to work very well.
  • Survivors of domestic violence are not adequately protected by the current Washington State Parenting Act.
  • The study analyzed a representative sample of finalized Parenting Plans approved by the court system. These samples were selected to reflect the socio-economic diversity seen in Washington State. This analysis found that with the benefit of parenting classes the results were:

  • Mothers made up three-quarters of the primary residential parents.
  • Forty-five percent of the Parenting Plans were standardized with a primary residential parent and every-other-weekend for the other parent.
  • Three-fourths of all Plans called for joint decision-making.
  • Very few Plans provided alternate visitation time than every other weekend. Even fewer plans allowed a 50/50 schedule for visits.
  • One in every five Plans included restrictions on the secondary parent's residential time, even though 1/3 of these Plans specified an every-other-weekend schedule.
  • One-fifth of the Plans had no specified schedule. The parents would have to agree between themselves and the child.
  • A critical review of the research on divorced parents and the well-being of their children was conducted after the study. More than 100 articles have been written utilizing quotes from leading experts in the field. These articles concluded:

  • There isn't one residential schedule that benefits children more than another. A major source of reduction in the well-being among children of divorce is conflict among the parents.
  • No significant disadvantages were seen in the well-being of children who shared a 50/50 residential schedule as long a parental conflict was controlled. No specific advantages to the children were noted in this arrangement either.
  • The shared residential schedule—and how frequently the child sees the non-residential parent—doesn't improve the child's well-being or improve the economic support provided to the children.
  • Parenting classes and Parenting Plans may not be the complete solution for child care after separation or divorce, but they are currently the best options available. The Washington State Parenting Act oversees these parenting classes to make sure they provide the best possible outcome for the children of divorce.