Parent University


In the county where Dick and I lived, all divorcing couples with minor children (or more technically, children who have not reached the age of majority) were required to go to “Parenting School.”

A judge would not grant a divorce until both parties attended and produced their graduation certificates to the court.

Fortunately, soon-to-be exes didn’t have to appear together.

Thank goodness for that!

Otherwise, it’s almost a given that instead of the instruction taking place in a relaxed atmosphere (or as relaxed as possible under the circumstances) where an open, honest exchange of information would be welcomed and encouraged, the educational facility would instead take on the look and feel of the Jerry Springer Show during its most violent episodes.

Actually, come to think of it, I just came up with the premise for a really interesting new reality show: Following families in transition around on a day-to-day basis as they adjust to their new roles and dynamics as the family unit changes. The compensation could be to have all fees relating to the divorce as well as counseling for all involved parties paid for.

*If anyone is interestd in pusuing this proposition, please feel free to contact me.

Speaking of money, like everything else associated with ending a marriage, there was a price to pay for obtaining a degree in co-parenting in separate households. Fortunately, the amount, compared to all the other expenses was minimal.

Now if only attorneys would slash their fees, this would be a better world!

Since Dick and I communicated with each other as little as possible, going to school together was out of the question. As you can imagine, Dick wasted no time in taking care of his responsibility immediately and without complaining. He didn’t raise a squabble at all about having to attend this program. He was happy to comply with the court-ordered mandate because anything that would have advanced this divorce along faster, he and Juanita were all for.

My hunch was that she was the one who called the shots and pushed Dick to move onward and upward (or should I say…outward and westward) as quickly as possible.

And as you probably guessed by now, I had to wait until there was enough money in the checkbook before I could register for the program.

So, what else was new?

When I was finally shown the money, it was past the date the judge had ordered us to enroll by. I notified my attorney of the situation. There wasn’t anything else I could have done under the circumstances.

If Dick thought he was hurting me and making me “in contempt of a court order” by not having the funds available, he was grossly mistaken. He was only delaying the process. Since Juanita wanted Dick so badly, she should have paid for my tuition. Honestly, I think it’s the least she could have done since she had a vested interest in having my marriage end as quickly as possible.

Co-parenting school was a four-hour course. My class was held at a local community college on a Saturday from 8:00 a.m. till noon.

In a way I was excited to take part in this program because I loved the academic atmosphere and missed the ambiance of campus life. However, once I got there I realized that this was not the co-ed experience I recalled.

Instead of the fun and parties associated with post-secondary educational life, my contemporaries and I were learning how to behave appropriately in front of our kids.

At this point I want to interject how full the lecture room was. There was not a single seat available. I guess despite the poor economy, couples were still splitting up in record numbers.

Getting back to the course syllabus, our group was shown a series of short videos depicting possible situations that might occur as life moves on for both parties as well as the offspring involved. Following each episode, we had a discussion about how to successfully handle the various dilemmas. Our instructor was a divorce attorney who also did mediation work. Just to clarify, she had first-hand experience in this field: she was also a divorced parent of minor children. Not only did she talk the talk…she walked the walk.

Actually the re-enactments were quite interesting and thought-provoking.

First we were shown a clip depicting “the drop off” or what transpired when the dad returned the kids back to their mom’s house after a weekend visit. The father was in a hurry to leave, making it clear that his time was up. The mom entered the room and started immediately badgering her ex about the support check being late and how she wasn’t able to pay the bills. Immediately, a heated argument took place. I quickly put myself in her shoes, knowing that in the near future, Dick would be pulling the same shtick on me.

Another skit involved the father who was a no-show for his child and how disappointed and let down the little one was by being neglected. Would this happen in our family? It was possible that once Dick got settled into his new life, Ashley wouldn’t matter as much to him and he might blow her off if something more entertaining came up for him. Fortunately, we would only have a few more years to deal with this!

The scenario which riled up our group the most involved a father who had moved on with his life and now had a new girlfriend. They both had children and the entire group were spending a weekend together. The parents were living it up drinking, smoking and having sex in the bedroom with the door closed while the kids had to fend for themselves in another room. The older ones were forced to babysit for the younger ones which didn’t go over very well because the collective offspring clearly were resentful and didn’t like each other or their new responsibilities. As evening turned into morning, the youngsters were seen at the kitchen table trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast. All that was available was cold, leftover pizza from the night before. The father entered the room angry and clueless as to why there was so much discord amongst everyone. My thoughts turned to Dick, Juanita , her two children and Ashley. I shuddered to imagine what our version of the Brady Bunch family would be like. Again, I kept thinking that at least the amount of time we’d actually have to deal with these issues was finite.

As our time together came to a close, we were each handed our certificates of attendance, instructed where to drop them off at the courthouse and wished good luck going forward.

Slowly but surely, things were starting to move forward.

One step closer to D-Day!



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