HB 66: Bill would allow divorcing parents to take online class

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SALT LAKE CITY– A bill that would provide an online option for an educational course for divorcing parents is set for consideration by the Utah House after a committee approved it Feb. 2.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Salt Lake City, has proposed HB66, a bill that would authorize courts to give divorced parents the choice to attend an online or in-person classes. The mandatory class is designed to sensitize divorcing parties to their children’s needs both during and after the divorce process. In past years, the class has only been offered in an in-person classroom setting, which bill proponents argue is costly and unreasonable with the growth of technology.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)Moss discussed both the pros and cons of using online education and pointed out that because many people already think of this class as a burden, they should be provided with another option for how they can take it.

“The important point that I want to stress is that there should be a choice. As far as the effectiveness of online classes there has been extensive research showing the benefits of online education courses and they are actually comparable to the traditional face-to-face methods,” Moss said. “Government entities continue to use online education. All members of our legislature are required to take an online ethics course.”

Jennifer Dailey, a mother of two, lobbied in favor of the bill and shared details of her recent divorce. Dailey explained that the course would have been more convenient and inexpensive to complete in her own home, instead of having to hire a babysitter, weekly, when money was already tight.

“In addition of going through the divorce, which was a very long and grueling process, I was a graduate student, I worked full-time, and I was essentially raising my two daughters alone,” Dailey said. “There were many nights that I was unable to be home, so the nights that I was able to be home were very valuable to me. This class was one extra night that I had to be away from my kids.”

Neal Gunnarson, a teacher of the traditional class and an opponent of the bill, claimed that divorce is too emotional of a topic to be discussed in an online setting. He shared a letter with the committee that former student, Richard Carmen, sent to him.

“Thanks to the tremendous instructors, I was able to walk away with a better understanding that I could have not received in an online course. All things that were difficult to embrace were presented with empathy, knowledge, expertise, and humor,” Carmen said.

All committee members agreed that a divorced parent shouldn’t be forced to take the class in a traditional setting and should be given the choice on how to complete the course. The motion to pass the bill passed unanimously at the conclusion of the committee meeting.

Legislators hope the new alternative will continue to help prevent situations where one parent uses a child as a weapon against the other spouse.

Published Feb. 9, 2016

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