CAFES offers a program for parents experiencing divorce and separation, who engage in protracted conflict over the children they share. We offer an intensive nine-week course to build co-parenting skills for parents who are in high conflict due to divorce and separation situations.This is an educational program, not counseling. Attendance at all nine sessions is mandatory.
We teach skills that can help parents solve problems faster, save money by avoiding long court battles, and create a calmer atmosphere for themselves and their child.
A judge of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court will order parents to participate in these sessions. Attendance is reported back to the court.
After receiving the court order, CAFES will call each parent to conduct an intake interview (we screen individuals for active drug or alcohol problems, mental illness, current domestic violence, etc.).If parents are currently involved in heated litigation, we will likely screen them out, as "full battle" litigation is simply too inconsistent with what we teach (cooperative co-parenting) to expect both to go on at the same time. Parents who are fully in "court battle" mode are too distracted by the accompanying stress, anger, guarded behavior, litigation "strategy" thinking, and fears about the outcome of the litigation, to obtain the benefit of the class.
The best candidates for our class are co-parents who are admittedly in very high conflict, but who also genuinely wish they could achieve peaceful co-parenting.Our best results in teaching cooperative co-parenting are achieved by people who truly want to accomplish that result.
Participants get a Certificate at the end of the class -they can either "Pass" or "Fail" the class.The certificate is also filed with the court.In order to "Pass" a participant must attend every session of the class, complete all the class homework, and demonstrate the ability to accept the obligation for personal change (not simply demonstrate the belief that the conflict is really just the fault of the other parent).
Both parents attend the classes together for nine consecutive weekly sessions. Class size is small (limited to six couples).
The nine sessions take place from 6:00-9:00 pm, once per week, at CAFES in West Roxbury/Newton.
Each class begins with dinner and "good stuff", where parents share stories of their children's experiences throughout the week.
In each class, conflict resolution skills are developed and practiced around specific parenting issues like discipline, transfers, attending the child's activities at the same time, step-parents and step-siblings, holiday and vacation scheduling.We practice co-parenting skills and problem solving skills on real problems, in real time.
At the end of the nine weeks, we often recommend ongoing mediation to the parents.We make referrals and recommendations, but parents are free to select any mediator of their choice.
The fee for this course is $950 per person.We accept checks made payable to "William James College" and we accept credit cards.Full payment must be made before the start date of the first class.Non-payment is reported back to the court.
We base the class on the following beliefs:
Parenting together doesn't end when your relationship ends
Most parents can learn to parent together even after they separate
Children do better when their parents are not fighting (the most common remark from these children is "I wish they wouldn't fight.")
Parents do better when children do better
There are skills that help people solve disagreements
Parents can learn these skills
Each parent must bring a small photograph of their child/children to the first session. We use the photographs throughout the nine weeks.
Research extensively documents the well-recognized problem that a relatively small number of families in divorce and custody litigation consume a vastly disproportionate amount of the court's time. Somewhere between 3% and 10% of parents remain in prolonged high conflict for years after their separation or divorce. Contrary to the myth that divorce is bad for children, years of research has consistently shown that most children can weather divorce or changes in their family constellation quite well,
as long as they are not subject to persisting inter-parental high conflict following their parents' divorce or separation
. For children who are adjusting to family reconfiguration, if there are high levels of continuing parent conflict, there are substantial risks of very poor outcomes.
Parents can protect children from the majority of the harmful effects of separation and divorce by simply giving them a peaceful and non-conflicted childhood. Courts, family law professionals and mental health professionals, know that relentless conflict between parents causes children's social, emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning to suffer. Yet though these parents love their children they often have difficulty staying focused on the impact of their behavior on their children.
The Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law at William James College now offers an educational program for high-conflict parents.This intervention teaches effective co-parenting to help parents minimize the negative impacts of divorce or separation upon their children.The skills that we teach include:
- maintaining business-like communications,
- making joint decisions with a minimum amount of conflict,
- avoiding putting children in situations where their loyalty to either parent is threatened,
- focusing on the present, not the past
- managing emotions carefully
- keeping behavior moderate and not extreme
- using "I" statements rather than "you" statements
- understanding that it is about the kids, not "me and her"
- watching fellow class members in similar situations and seeing how they handle things
- breaking years of silence
- communicating without lawyers present
- feeling some optimism about making progress without court battles
Our psychoeducational program is newly available in Massachusetts, but programs like ours have been in existence in other states across the country for quite some time. For a look at programs similar to ours that are offered in other states, we encourage you to visit:
Our syllabus consists of 27 hours of class time (9 evening sessions , 3 hours each), mandatory attendance of both parents at all nine sessions together, taught by a two-person team of facilitators. Class membership is limited to six couples (12 people). The two-person team of facilitators is gender mixed (one male, one female) and skill-mixed (one psychology professional and one legal professional). The syllabus is a well-established model, similar to those in use in other states, and shown to have significant success in teaching co-operative co-parenting to parents engaged in protracted conflict over the children they share.
The fundamental goal of the class is to improve the outcomes for children of divorcing/separating parents. The charge for this class is $950 per person.
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 Research has consistently and robustly shown that children of high conflict families are at risk in many ways. To see just some of the volume of research that clearly demonstrates that the best predictor of which children will experience a host of problems following divorce or separation (including but not limited to depression, early experimentation with drugs or alcohol, unhealthy sexual encounters and teenage pregnancy, emotional problems including anxiety, low self-esteem, and declining school performance)
is persisting high conflict between their parents -
see for example, Deutsch, R. & Pruett, M.K. (2009). Child adjustment and high conflict divorce. In R.M. Galatzer-Levy & L. Kraus (Eds.)
The Scientific Basis of Child Custody Decisions (2nd Ed.)
. New York: John Wiley &Sons, 353-375.
We make parents aware that many of the damaging effects upon children from high conflict parents carry over into their adulthood and can affect them throughout their lives.
To reduce these risks, we help parents to de-escalate their custody/parenting time disputes and focus on raising happy and healthy children.