ATLANTA, Georgia – For 20 years, the Center for Navigating Family Change has been providing court-ordered seminars for divorcing parents in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties. Until COVID shut down the courthouses, the seminars took place in person, but like many organizations, the pandemic forced CNFC to pivot to online services, which began in June 2020, and has been the only format for the seminars since then.
According to Rick Voyles, CNFC’s Education Director, the organization will be offering the live online seminars starting in July, in English and Spanish, to all parents in and outside of the metro area who have cases filed in counties and jurisdictions in the state of Georgia.
“We have a long-standing track-record of providing valuable services to large metro Atlanta counties, says Voyles. “We’d like for all areas of Georgia to have access to the same high-quality courses that those in the metro area have had for decades.”
According to Executive Director, Diane Dierks, the seminars are not likely to return to an in-person format. “Now that most people are comfortable with Zoom and other video formats, we doubt divorcing and separated parents will give up the convenience of fulfilling this court-ordered requirement online.”
Dierks says not having to obtain childcare, drive through Atlanta traffic, or enter a courthouse that can sometimes evoke anxiety for people going through a divorce, the online option is a welcome alternative.
“It’s convenient and often feels more private and safer for our participants. As long as the children are in another area of the home or someone can watch them while the parent views the seminar, they are able to get the same instruction and ability to ask questions as they did in the in-person mode.”
The four-hour seminar is offered many times per month during a variety of days and times, including evenings and Saturdays. Each seminar is taught by two qualified professionals who have experience working with single parents and co-parents in difficult situations.
Each seminar explores the importance of setting healthy boundaries as co-parents, the value of parenting as a single individual, the process of grief and how it affects children, as well as practical strategies for parents dealing with a difficult co-parent.
“Most parents do not want to attend the seminar because they think it will be taught by disinterested court officials,” says Voyles, “but they are usually surprised to find that our presenters have been through similar situations and understand what they are facing as single and co-parents.”
CNFC also provides private court-ordered parenting coordination services for parents during and after litigation via the Zoom platform.
“Co-parents actually do much better when meeting with a parenting coordinator online to help them resolve their issues,” reports Dierks. “I think they feel less intimidated by the process when they have more capabilities to easily take a break and regroup when they are in their own spaces instead of a clinical office.”
According to Dierks, COVID provided an unintended opportunity for organizations like CNFC.
“COVID was a terrible experience for many, but what people learned to do in response to it has thankfully created a whole new way of delivering our services to a lot more people,” she says. “We are excited to be offering our educational seminars and private co-parenting interventions in this new expanded way to all who need them in Georgia.”