10.46Blaisure and Geasler’s research found that more than three quarters of mandatory programmes are held in one session while 43% of voluntary programmes had three or more sessions. The mandatory sessions tended to use video tapes.1114 Arbuthnot and Gordon found, from follow-up after a parent education programme, that the parents valued it as they learned useful parenting and communication skills. They recommended that the parents need to be actively engaged in the learning of new skills rather than just passive recipients of a video programme. They concluded that there were:
“encouraging findings that the programs result in lowered exposure of children to parental conflict and greater tolerance for the parenting role of the other parent, with attendant positive change in children well-being”.1115
Arguments against mandatory attendance
10.47If attendance is mandatory the question arises as to what action is taken by the court for non-compliance. Extra resources to fund the programme has to be provided. If parents are consenting to child arrangements, it seems a waste of resources to force attendance. Some programmes only mandate attendance if there is a dispute over custody or access. Formal mandates exist in at least 396 jurisdictions in 35 states.1116
10.48One compromise is for judges to recommend particular parents to attend. Then participation is not mandatory but parents will take a recommendation seriously.1117 The problem with this is that it is better if parents can attend as early at possible and it may be some time before a judge sees the couple.
United States parenting plans
10.49Parenting plans have been promoted by the Florida Shared Responsibility Act 1982, and particularly developed by the Parenting Act 1987 in Washington State. The Washington State legislation will be focused on in this part. This changed the language of custody” to “residential care and decision making on parental responsibilities”. Limits were provided on shared parenting and on future dispute resolution options where there was evidence of neglect, wilful abandonment, abuse (physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse) or domestic violence.1118
Compulsory parenting plans
1114 Blaisure and Geasler, supra at 55.
1115 Arbuthnot and Gordon, “Does Mandatory Divorce Education for Parents Work? - a six month outcome evaluation,” Family and Conciliation Courts Review, vol 34, No.1, January 1996, 60, 79.
1116 Blaisure and Geasler, supra.
1117 Schepard & Schlissel (1995) in New York state, Salem supra at 19.
1118 Tompkins, “Parenting Plans-a concept whose time has come”, Family and Conciliation Courts Review, vol.33, no. 3, (1995), 286, 293.