Massachusetts Mandatory Co-Parenting Course Revised

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During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Probate and Family Court suspended the requirement for all parties in divorces involving children, actions to establish paternity, complaints for modification and contempt involving custody and/or parenting-time, or any other case involving parenting time, custody, or support of minor children, to attend a Parent Education Program. The suspension of this requirement was rescinded by a September 20, 2023 Standing Order of the Probate and Family Court, which required parties in matters filed on or after November 1, 2023 to attend a court-approved parenting course.

On January 22, 2024, the Probate and Family Court revised Standing Order 3-23, which addresses the Court’s authority to order parents to attend a Court approved parenting education course. All parents to a Complaint for Divorce filed pursuant to G. L. c. 208, § 1B, Complaint for Separate Support, Complaint to Establish Paternity, or Complaint for Custody/Support/Parenting Time filed on or after February 12, 2024 must attend a co-parenting education course called “Two Families Now”. A pamphlet describing the course and a Notice to Parents, which describes the requirements of the Standing Order, shall be given to the Plaintiff or their attorney upon the filing of the Complaint, and the Notice to Parents must be served to the other party with the complaint and summons.

Parents must register for the course within 30 days after the service of the Complaint, and the course must be completed 30 days after registering. The Certificate of Completion must be filed within 14 calendar days after the completion of the course. The Court may impose sanctions upon parties who fail to complete the co-parenting course.

Parents should note that Standing Order 3-23 gives judges the authority to order parents involved in post-judgment cases involving custody and/or parenting time issues, such as a Complaint for Modification or Complaint for Contempt, to attend the Course.

“Two Families Now” is a four-hour, online course that parents can complete at their own pace on a computer, tablet, or smart phone. The cost to attend is $49 per parent, unless the Court approves of a parent’s Affidavit of Indigency and Request for Waiver, Substitution or State Payment of Fees and Costs. If a waiver is granted, the approved waiver must be uploaded to the “Two Families Now” two website during registration.

A Court may waive the attendance of one or both parents upon a Motion to Waive Attendance at Parent Education Program, and with proper notice of the Motion being given to the other parent. The Court may decide the request without a hearing, or the Court may schedule an in-person or virtual hearing to hear the Motion. A waiver may be granted if there is a demonstrable showing of actions or patterns of behaviors which makes parental communication unsafe, if there are language barriers between the parties, if a parent is incarcerated or unavailable, if the parties submit a written agreement on custody and/or parenting time issues, or if a parent previously attended the course.

If a parent is not required to attend the co-parenting course under the standing order but wishes to do so, they may voluntarily take the course upon payment of the $49 fee or the approval of an Affidavit of Indigency and Request for Waiver.


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