In Massachusetts, parents of minor children that are going through a divorce, whether filed on “fault” or “no fault” grounds, are required to attend a Parent Education Program. Additionally, judges have the authority to order parents to attend a Parent Education Program if they are involved in an action to establish paternity, complaints for modification or contempt, or in any other case involving visitation, custody, or support of minor children.
Attendance is mandatory for parents going through a divorce, although the court can waive this requirement. Parents are to register within 60 days of service of the complaint. The Pre-Trial Conference, or trial, will not be held until the court receives a certificate of attendance from an approved program from both parents. An uncontested hearing date (a date to present a separation agreement, commonly called a “divorce agreement”) may be scheduled prior to attendance, so long as registration confirmations are filed with the court and both parents complete the program prior to the hearing.
Attendance can be waived by filing a motion with the court, and are only granted upon the following reasons:
- A demonstrable showing of chronic and severe violence which negates safe parental communication
- Language barriers
- Institutionalization or other unavailability of a party
- Failure of the other party to complete a program
- Unavailability of an approved program in the county in which the original divorce was filed
- Where justice otherwise indicates