In Virginia, the parties to any contested custody, visitation or support action shall show proof that they have attended a qualified Parent Education Seminar within 12 months prior to their court appearance or within 45 days thereafter. Virginia Code Sections 16.1-278.15 and 20-103
The Parent Education Seminar is a minimum of four hours in length. This may be in one four hour session or two two hour sessions depending on the provider's schedule. The fee shall be based on the party's ability to pay, but may not exceed $50. An exemption of attendance may be granted for good cause shown or if no program is reasonably available. If a party does not attend, a judge may hold the party in contempt of court or impose other sanctions.
The Seminar discusses the effects of separation or divorce on children. Children are very intuitive and may be aware of tense or uncomfortable situations even if their parents are not overtly hostile. Parents are required to attend whether they were ever married or not. This time can be difficult for both children and parents. It is intended to make parents more aware of the effects and their parenting responsibilities in the hopes that they will be more focused on their children's needs in developing their parenting plan. The Seminar will discuss options for conflict resolution including mediation rather than litigation as a means of determining custody, visitation and support. Children should never be used to communicate between the parents or placed in the middle between their parents. The Seminar will also discuss each parent's financial responsibilities. The Seminar is designed to help parents learn about co-parenting and improving communication techniques. Parents also learn about accepting different parenting styles. Children should always be first and foremost in the parent's thoughts and minds.
The Virginia State Bar Foundation produced a video entitled “Spare the Child” which provides very insightful information about not involving the children in your separation or divorce, the long term effects and the separation process. I recommend you watch this short less than twenty-minute video.