Recently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has rendered a decision mandating the education of parents about children’s emotional needs in order to better understand the effects that a divorce has on child’s behavior and development.
The Court has set forth requirements, effective May 1, 2016, in which a summary of the provisions are listed below:
- The parties in a divorce involving minor children are required to attend and participate in a Parent Education Program. However, the Judge reserves discretion to require the parties to establish paternity, complaints for modification/contempt, any other case involving parenting time, custody, or support of minor children to attend a Parent Education Program.
- The parties in a divorce in which minor children are involved are required to register for a Parent Education Program within thirty days of the original complaint upon the original defendant. If there are other parties who have been ordered to attend the Parent Education Program, they too, must register within thirty days of the order. The Court has discretion to impose penalties for parties who fail to register or complete the program. Once parties have successfully registered, they must complete the “Affidavit Confirming Registration at Parent Education Program” and file it with the Court.
- Divorcing parents (and parents in other cases who have been ordered to attend the program by the Court) are required to attend the program, unless it has been waived by the Court. Upon the successful completion of the program, the parties must file their Certificate of Attendance with the Court no later than thirty days after completion.
- If a party seeks to waive their attendance at the Parent Education Program, the party must file a “Motion to Waive Attendance at a Parent Education Program,” along with giving notice to the other party. The motion must detail the reason why the party is unable to attend a Parent Education Program. Waivers have been successfully granted for: chronic and severe violence that prohibits safe parental communication; language barriers; institutionalization and/or unavailability of the party; or where justice otherwise indicates. The Court may deny the Motion and may instead require the party to watch a five-hour DVD program to satisfy the Parent Education Program requirement. It must be noted that a waiver for one party does not automatically apply to the other party.
- If a party is unable to attend the Parent Education Program in person, they may file a “Motion to Permit Completion of Parent Education Program via DVD.” This motion must detail the reason why the parent is unable to attend the Parent Education Program in person. Approval of this motion may be granted if the party can show: significant health or financial issues; significant geographic and transportation issues or significant barriers to in person participation; or where justice so indicates. If Motion is granted, the party must complete the DVD program and obtain a Certificate of Attendance, which must be provided to the Court no later than thirty days after completion. It must again be noted that approval for one parent does not automatically apply to the other parent.
- Unless the Court has ordered otherwise, the parties must attend programs that are currently approved by the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court. The program vendors will ensure that parties to the same action do not attend the same session of any program unless ordered otherwise by the Court. Currently available and approved programs are listed at https://www.mass.gov/parent-education.
- Upon filing a complaint for divorce involving minor children, both parties will be provided with a copy of this Standing Order by his/her Framingham divorce attorney.
- Each party shall pay $80.00 to the provider in advance of the program for materials, facilitators, and program administration. The same fee applies to those who have permission to complete the program via DVD.
- If a party is unable to pay the $80.00 fee, the party may be eligible to pay a reduced fee of $5.00 to the program provider. The party must submit an “Affidavit of Indigency and Request for Waiver; Substitution or State Payment of Fees and Costs” to the Court for approval. If approved, the party must submit a copy of the approved waiver to the Parent Education provider when attending the program for the $5.00 reduced fee.
Can You Get Schedule Your Divorce Prior to Attending This Program?
An uncontested divorce hearing may be scheduled pending attendance, if the parties file an affidavit confirming their registration and so long as both parties complete the program prior to the hearing.
A Pre-Trial Conference in a contested divorce case may be similarly scheduled so long as both parties complete the program prior to the Pre-trial conference. The Court will not hold a trial until it has received Certificates of Attendance from an approved program for each party, or waives the requirement.
To learn more about this requirement or to get qualified representation for your divorce in Framingham, MA, call Barach Law Group LLC for a free consultation!