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My husband and I have been married nearly 13 years and have two children ages 10 and 11. If we do a divorce mediation and are able to agree on all important points as I think we will, do we still need to do the parenting class required by MA law. I know it's sill but I really find it offensive that I have to go listen to someone tell me how to raise my children. Thank you.

 
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Parent education programs with MA divorce mediation

As you know, all couples with minor children who wish to obtain a divorce in Massachusetts must attend an approved parent education program.   Even though divorce mediation is a much more cooperative solution to ending a marriage, it is still a process that ends in divorce.  In order to obtain court approval, both parents must take the parenting class before filing for a court date. I understand your concerns about the parent education program, but the class is really designed to discuss the effects of divorce on children, and other related issues, rather than to teach divorcing couples how to be parents. Hope that helps.

Parenting

Mari,
 
Thanks for your question. The parenting class is required for all divorcing parents of minor children. Generally, the class consists of two sessions of about 2 hours each and there is a fee. The classes are provided by an approved list of organizations that you can get from the court or the web. While you may not think them necessary, it is easier to attend than it is to try to convince a court that you don't need them. There is always the chance that good parents may still learn something worthwhile. There is more information on divorce and divorce mediation at parkermediation.com.
 
Attorney Mark Petersen

Mediation and Parenting Classes

Mari --
You are correct that couples who choose mediation are usually more respectful toward one another and are more likely to avoid disagreements over parenting issues than litigating couples. However, there is valuable information in the parenting classes you can profit by if you approach it with an open mind. I've actually been through it, and have seen the value to my clients in my divorce mediation practice.
 
The focus of the parenting classes are not to tell you how to raise your kids. Instead, they teach you basic facts and skills which many of us simply do not know about. For example, they will teach you how children of different age groups react to divorce (i.e., for younger children, it is much the same experience as grief after the death of a loved one). I am sure you will find it interesting to learn how pre-teens are different from younger children and teenagers in this regard, and what you can do to help them understand, ease through the transition, allow them to express themselves, and prevent flare-ups. They also give nuts-and-bolts advice and simple logistical suggestions you may never have thought of that help avoid conflicts and make everyone's life more harmonious. For example, when transitioning for changes in parenting time, it's best if one parent drops the children off at the other parent's home instead of a parent coming to pick the children up. That way, the children are packed with backpacks, school books, homework, i-pods, teddy bears, etc., and ready to hop out of the car and into the other parent's home. Otherwise, a parent may be frustrated and humiliated waiting in the driveway while the kids futz around getting ready, and that frustration gets projected onto the other parent and an angry confrontation develops. A simple little trick that avoids a great deal of conflict, yet many divorcing couples never learn about it. And there are more. Some programs show a brief film about divorce as told by actual children involved. Most parents find it very eye-opening to hear the voices of these children and learn of their perspective and true feelings.
 
Not all parenting programs are created equal, they are operated by contractors in different regions, but the curriculum is fairly standard. You should have a rewarding experience, at least worth the effort of attending and price of admission. -- Mike Tremblay

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