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Required class shifts divorcing parents’ focus to kids

Parents seeking divorce in Covington County must attend classes first if they have children under the age of 16.

Child First was created by Lesa Syler and Chris Jackson, who teach the class.

The class has a fee of $100 per person.

“We call it Child First because we really want the focus to be the children, we want the children first,” Syler said.

Jackson and Syler teach the three-hour classes on the first and third Tuesdays of every month in the Wilbur Williams Law Enforcement Training Center from 7-9 p.m.

“The way it works is that if you’re attempting to get a divorce within Covington County, and if you have a child under the age of 16, you have to have these classes,” Jackson said.

“In order to finalize your divorce you have to have the certificate from our class to actually get it done.”

The class has a focus of how the children feel, Syler said.

“We want to try to get the focus off of the parents and more on the children,” she said.

“We go through the stages of grief and try to teach the parents that what they’re experiencing, so are the children.”

The class also covers real world situations.

“We cover concrete issues like doctor’s appointment and things that children go through every day. Just those big decisions that the divorced parents would still have to make together,” Syler said.

The classes are modeled after Baldwin County and Tuscaloosa County’s court mandated classes.

“One of the most common misconceptions about divorce is that it’s a one time incident in life and that you can get past it easily,” Jackson said.

“It’s not like that. Studies show the emotional impact that divorce has on children can be for life.”

The class also teaches how to live with the economic changes that come with divorce, the change in dynamics of relationships with friends and family, talking to children about divorce and dating or remarriage.

“You only have to attend one class,” Jackson said.

“I really think it really helps. These classes are nothing to dread or think of as something negative. This is a very relaxed class to give you information on what you can expect from divorce and how to actually handle it,” he said.

The class is very helpful, Jackson said.

“We actually had one couple decide that they didn’t want to divorce after taking our class,” he said.

The class is not affiliated with any state agency.