Parent Education Programs in Family Courts: Balancing Autonomy and State Intervention

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Working Paper

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children, dispute resolution, divorce, family law, parent education, parental autonomy, separation


This article contemplates whether and how court-connected parent education programs can assist separating parents to access dispute resolution processes that best suit their families’ needs, in a manner that involves appropriately curtailed levels of state interference with parental autonomy. The author argues that such programs can play an important role in providing key information to separating parents. Specifically, providing mandatory information to all separating parents who seek access to the family law regime about children’s reactions to parental separation and conflict, and about the desirability of keeping such factors in mind as they consider the various dispute resolution options open to them, is a warranted level of state intervention. However, given current understandings of the appropriate limits on state interference with parental autonomy regarding child-rearing practices, programs aimed specifically at changing parental skills and behaviours should be mandated only on a case-by case basis, where a judge considers such changes necessary.

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