When you file a claim for child custody in North Carolina, both parties must attend the Custody Mediation and Visitation Program pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.1. Upon completion of this program, the matter may then be set for hearing if the parties are unable to come to an agreement during mediation. There are circumstances where the Court will waive the mediation requirement. Those circumstances will not be analyzed in this blog.
The Custody Mediation and Visitation Program involves the parties participating in an orientation class to help prepare the parties for mediation and completing an online parent education class. North Carolina Courts accept completion of a few different parent education classes. One that is accepted is Two Families Now. This is a 4-hour class designed to assist parents who are raising children in separate households. It discusses different co-parenting styles and ways to reduce co-parenting conflicts. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Two Families Now offers participants the option to attend virtually via Zoom. This allows for parents to attend the class on their own time in an environment that is comfortable for them.
The completion of a parent education class is a requirement not only in North Carolina but in 15 other states. Approximately 46 states mandate parties who file a claim for child custody to participate in some form of parent education and 16 states, including North Carolina, require parties to participate in a court-approved class. Like North Carolina, Tennessee requires parties to participate in a court-approved class so, yes, Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth will be required to complete this class.
Recently, some have questioned the effectiveness of the required classes. Despite almost four decades of implementation, there is still little to no evidence that the classes achieve the effect they are meant to have on parties in a child custody action. Moreover, the class comes with a price. Parties are charged anywhere from $40.00 to more than $100.00 to complete the class. In North Carolina, the charge typically ranges between $40.00 and $50.00. Among states, counties and even individual courtrooms, there is great variability in which programs fulfill the local requirements. For most, the completion of the course becomes another box that must be checked to get one step closer to resolving their matter and picking up the pieces to move forward after divorce.