In 2016, the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts issued an order requiring all divorcing parents to attend a co-parenting class. Judges take this very seriously and we have seen parents get scolded in court for not completing the class. This is especially true if there are issues between the parents about custody and parenting and the judge has to enter an order for custody and parenting time.
There are a lot of providers that normally offer these courses. The content is the same, and parents attend the course on two separate days for a total of five (5) hours. Even though there is an online version of the class, in order to use the online version (or a DVD) you had to file a motion and the judge had to allow it in each case. We have seen these motions denied when the judge didn't feel there was a good enough reason for people to avoid the in-person class.
Obviously, in-person classes simply aren't possible right now with the current restrictions on public gatherings. But it should underscore the importance and value the Court sees in these classes that it didn't just waive this requirement until in-person classes can resume. What the court DID do was take a big step into the future.
On March 24th, 2020, the Court issued a Temporary Amendment to Standing Order 2-16 (the order that requires co-parenting classes) to allow classes to be offered virtually. What this means is that parents can now sign up for the class and attend online via Zoom or sign up for a self-paced program. Here is what you need to know:
- You don't need to file a motion to get permission to take the co-parenting class online.
- You can find a lot of options by visiting the mass.gov site which lists co-parenting courses by county. Each provider has specific dates and times for classes, so you can probably find something that works if you want a live instructor. Each of these will be a little different in terms of methods for payment and scheduling, so make sure to call the provider if you have questions.
- You can take the self-paced online course, called KidCare Online. This is the only online course that was previously available before COVID-19, and Parent Education Group, Inc. was the only provider. Their website says they are not shipping DVDs currently due to COVID-19. When you click the "Add to cart" button, you will be taken to PayPal to complete the purchase.
- Make sure to get your Certificate of Completion! You need to get this and file it with the Court so you get credit for your hard work. If you have an attorney, they will probably handle that part for you (we do for our clients!).
Our advice to parents is to take advantage of this opportunity and take the course online while you can. It is possible that this could mark a permanent change, but don't count on it.
If you have questions on co-parenting classes or any other aspect of divorce, please reach out to our team and we would be happy to speak with you about your case.