The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that divorcing parents of children under age 18 must complete a required parent education program. Additionally, the requirement applies to unmarried parents seeking to establish paternity, modify child custody orders or who are involved in any other court proceeding related to custody, support or visitation of minor children.
When enacting the order, the Probate and Family Court found that "the interests of the minor children of parties appearing before it would be well served by educating their parents about children's emotional needs and the effects of divorce on child behavior and development."
Parents must register within 60 days of the service of the original complaint. No pre-trial conference or trial will take place until the court receives a certificate of attendance from each party. In certain circumstances this requirement can be waived.
The court may impose sanctions for failing to register as required. Attendance at a class not approved by the Chief Justice will not fulfil the requirement. Additionally, each parent must attend a different session. There are more than 70 approved programs offered throughout the state.
Parents can find current information about approved classes at the Probate and Family Court website. The list of approved class providers can also be found in the pamphlet, Understanding the Effect of Divorce on Children, a copy of which must be given to each parent either by his or her attorney or by the court upon serving of the complaint for divorce.
The class currently costs $80.00 each. Parents can request a fee reduction by filing an Affidavit of Indigency.