All too often kids are the victims in divorces and custody battles.  Protecting kids from the conflict between their parents is among the most important things parents can do for their children.  There are some resources available to help parents with this.  One of these is the State of New York Parent Education and Awareness Program.

This program is designed to educate divorcing or separating parents about the impact of their breakup on their children.  This program is intended to “teach parents ways they can reduce the stress of family changes and protect their children from the negative effects of ongoing parental conflict in order to foster and promote their children’s healthy adjustment and development.”

The program was launched in 2005 and slowly but surely has crept into local practice.  Initially, the program rarely was mentioned in divorces and Family Court cases.  Now many Judges in the Capital District make it a standard requirement in any litigated matter that involves custody of children.

Judges can order parties to attend the Parent Education and Awareness Program.  However, in cases where there is domestic violence a court may not be able to order the parties to attend the program.  In such cases courts are apt to order some sort of domestic violence or anger management counseling for the offender.  Often they also will direct some counseling for the victim to help them protect their children and themselves.

The Parent Education and Awareness Program is administered by the New York State Office of Court Administration but classes are provided by numerous independent certified Parent Education Programs throughout New York State.

The course materials provide an overview of the legal process and then deal with parenting issues.  These include:

  1. Creating and Maintaining Supportive Parent-Child Relationships;
  2. Providing a Stable, Supportive Home Environment;
  3. Maintaining Healthy Parental Functioning & Psychological Well-Being; and
  4. Protecting Children from Ongoing Conflict between Parents.

Parties can agree to make the Parent Education and Awareness Program part of the terms of their custody or divorce agreement if they think that they or their children will benefit from it.  This is something to be discussed with your counsel as part of the negotiation process.

Many people think that they are good parents and do not need to take such a course.  But divorcing and separating creates many challenges for which no one reasonably can expect truly to be prepared.  The Parent Education and Awareness Program is one way in which good parents can get some help to makes sure that they can continue to be good parents while going through the challenges of divorce or separation.