If you have kids and want to get divorced in Illinois, then you will need to take a parenting class. This is true even in an uncontested divorce in Illinois. Even though an uncontested divorce in Illinois is the fastest and most affordable way to get divorce in every county in Illinois, the parenting class is still a requirement for those with kids.
As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I wrote this article to give people some basic information about parenting classes.
If you have kids and you want to get divorce or start a case for visitation or custody (now called “allocation of parental responsibilities”), then you neeed to understand the parenting class requirements in Illinois.
Why do I have to take a parenting class?
This question is the most common, but its answer is the most meaningless.
A parenting class is required because the Illinois Supreme Court says it is. That’s all there is to it. Do you think you don’t need the class because both of your get along, you’ve been co-parenting for years while not living together, or because you are the world’s formost child psychologist? It doesn’t matter.
The requirement can be found in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294 [link]. It states the following:
(a) Program. Each circuit or county shall create or approve a parenting education program consisting of at least four hours covering the subjects of visitation parenting time and custody allocation of parental responsibilities and their impact on children.
(b) Mandatory Attendance. Except when excused by the court for good cause shown, all parties shall be required to attend and complete an approved parenting education program as soon as possible, but not later than 60 days after an initial case management conference. In the case of a default or lack of jurisdiction over the respondent, only the petitioning party is required to attend but if the respondent later enters an appearance or participates in postjudgment proceedings, then the party who has not attended the program shall attend. The court shall not excuse attendance unless the reason is documented in the record and a finding is made that excusing one or both parents from attendance is in the best interests of the child.
(c) Sanctions. The court may impose sanctions on any party willfully failing to complete the program.
Can I take a parenting class online?
Many people would like to take a class online. Who wants to run around going to a parenting class? Nobody.
But whether or not you can take an online parenting class in Illinois depends upon the county in which your case will be filed.
The counties can be broken down into three categories in regards to online parenting classes:
- Your choice: Some counties allow anyone who chooses to take an online parenting class, instead of the in-person class. I don’t know about every county in Illinois, but around the Chicago-area, both Cook County and DuPage County allow people in an uncontested divorce to take the online parenting class without any special permission from the court. However, you should note that in Cook County, and maybe others, only people in an uncontested divorce are allowed to take the parenting class online.
- By Permission: In some counties, the court requires permission to take an online parenting class. Without that permission (called “leave of court” in legal terms), one must take the parenting class in person.
- Not offered: Some counties do not offer online parenting classes.
How much does a parenting class cost?
The costs can vary. For example, in Cook County, the online parenting class is about $40. In DuPage County the online class is a bit more. In Will County, no online class is offered, and the in-person class costs around $70.
Do we both have to go to a parenting class?
Yes, both parents have to go to the parenting class.
If taking an in-person class, most places will not let both parents come at the same time. They want to avoid fighting. Can you promise that you won’t fight with the other parent? It doesn’t matter. You still can’t attend the same class session.
How long does a parenting class take?
As you may have noticed if you read Illinois Supreme Court Rule 294 [link] above, the Illinois Supreme Court mandated that a parenting class must be at least four hours. I don’t know of any basic parenting class that is longer.
What proof do I need that I took the parenting class?
Most parenting classes will give you some sort of certificate of completion when you have completed the parenting class. You’ll need this to get divorced in Illinois.
If you take the class online, then you should receive an electronic certificate of completion.
Sometimes, it can be difficult for people to find or receive their certificate of completion. It is the responsibility of each party to make sure that they can obtain a certificate of completion (or similar evidence of completion) prior to the court date.
Is there any way out of a parenting class?
The Supreme Court Rule (shown above) states that everyone in a divorce or parenting case shall take the parenting class “except when excused by the court for good cause shown.”
So you might think that it’s not a problem to get the court’s permission not to take the class. You’d be wrong.
Getting out of a parenting class requires the judge’s approval. To get the judges approval, one must ask for it in the proper way. And that requires filing a motion. And filing a motion takes work, including a trip to court – one that would not otherwise be necessary in an ucontested divorce in Illinois.
And success is not guaranteed f you file a motion asking a judge to be excused from a parenting class. In fact, I’d expect the judge to turn down the request to get out of the class.
If you try to get out of a parenting class requirement, you will most likely simply be delaying your divorce and increasing its expense.
Does a case need to be filed before signing up for a parenting class?
Many sign-up forms for parenting classes as for a case number for your divorce case. From what I’ve seen, only the Cook County in-person parenting class requires a case number actually be given. The others may ask for it, but don’t require it. I think that’s because the in-person Cook County class is run by the county (instead of a third party), and availability is very limited.
However, in Cook County, the case number is only required for the in-person class, not the online class (run by a third-party).
For most of the uncontested divorce cases I handle, people take the parenting class before any case is filed, so there is no case number.
How do I sign up for a parenting class?
How you sign up for a class depends on which county you are in. Please see this below list of links covering several counties.
Can I take any parenting class I want?
Many people search the internet for “parenting class” and find a bunch of websites that offer parenting classes. In my opinion, most of them are a scam. The judges do not accept those classes, for the most part. That means you may not finalize your divorce if you show up to court with a certificate of completion from a random internet class.
For example, in McHenry County, Local Rule 11.09(2)(a) states “The program may be contracted for and shall be overseen by the Chief Judge or his or her designee.” That means parents cannot take parenting classes other than the one designated by the court (except if a parent lives outside McHenry County, but Court permission is needed for that).
Long story short, if you want an uncontested divorce in Illinois, do not take a random internet-based parenting class just to save a few bucks – it will likely be a waste of time and money.