Massachusetts divorce lawyer James M. Lynch reviews new rules affecting the mandatory Parent Education Class in Divorce cases.
On May 1, 2016, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court repealed Standing Order 4-08 relating to Parent Education Program attendance and replaced it with Standing Order 2-16.
The new Standing Order now requires all parties to a divorce action in which there are minor children to register with an approved program within thirty (30) days of service of the complaint upon the original defendant. Upon registration, the parties must complete and file with the Court an Affidavit Confirming Registration at Parent Education Program. The parties are also now required to file their Certificates of Attendance with the Court no later than thirty (30) days after completing the program.
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The new rule signals an effort by the Court to put pressure on divorce litigants to complete the Parent Education Program early in the court process, presumably to ensure that parties don’t appear at the Pretrial Conference, divorce trial or divorce approval hearing without their parenting certificates. In fact, the new Standing Order prohibits the holding of a divorce trial until the Court has received the Certificates of Attendance from each party or has waived the requirement. The new Standing Order and indicates that, while an uncontested divorce hearing and a Pretrial Conference may be scheduled without a Certificate of Attendance on file, neither hearing will proceed without it.
Interestingly, the new Standing Order stops short of ordering all unmarried parents from attending the Parent Education Class, but notes that a Probate and Family Court judge, in his or her discretion, may order unmarried parents with children, or divorced parents engaged in modification or contempt actions, to attend the class. Click here a complete copy of the new Standing Order and Affidavit Confirming Registration at Parent Education Program.
Note that the state’s list of parent education class providers is not reliably updated. For a reliable, frequently updated list of providers, we recommend consulting the Divorce Center’s list of Court-Approved Provider Agencies:
About the Author: James M. Lynch is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts personal injury attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.
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