The Massachusetts Probate & Family Court suspended the mandatory requirement for divorcing parentings to complete a parent education program as specified in Standing Order 2-16 back on July 8, 2021. The Court had determined that the old program had several shortcomings. An internal assessment determined that several problems with the former mandatory training. One problem was that only divorcing parentings were mandated to take the course whereas unwed parents could only be ordered to attend at the discretion of the Court. There was no data to support that the old program was producing the desired goals. The former program was not evidence-based. There was no standards to the program and course providers had road latitude to develop their content. The internal review also found that the providers were often not applying for renewal or submitting data as required.
Just over two years and two months later, the Court has finally announced a new Standing Order and mandatory Co-Parenting Education Program. This new program takes effect November 1, 2023. There are some major differences to the new court. In addition to divorcing parents, it is mandatory in any custody case regardless of whether the parents are married and is now mandatory unless waived as permitted by the Standing Order.
The new Course is named Two Families Now and is a four-hour online course rather than a four-hour in person course. Parents may take the course at their own pace. The Standing Order requires Judges to issue an Order to attend this program. Once ordered, attendance is mandatory unless waived by the Court. It can be waived for one or both parents. Waivers must be requested by Motion. These Motions may be granted for good cause shown or justice otherwise requires. All information and documents submitted or used in conjunction with their co-parenting course “shall not be discoverable.”
Read the full text of the Standing Order. For questions and additional information about the new parenting course, please contact Attorney Schutzbank.