Court Ordered Parenting Classes
Have a court order for a parent education class? We can help.
High-Conflict Parent Education Classes
We offer 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.
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.
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.
How it Works
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 your court order, we 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 William James College in Newton, MA.
Each parent must bring a small photograph of their child/children to the first session. We use the photographs throughout the nine weeks.
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.
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
The fee for this course is $950 per person when the class you have been assigned to is in person at William James College; otherwise, the fee is $850 per person when you are assigned to a course that is operating on Zoom. When you are accepted into the course and have been assigned to a class, you will be directed to make your payment.
We accept checks payable to William James College or you can pay by credit card. Full payment must be made before the start date for the first class unless otherwise arranged with the program director.
We don't publish class schedules on our website. If you have a court order to attend the next class (signed by a judge) then be sure to provide a copy of that order to the Program Director, Mary M. Ferriter, JD, MPA. That will constitute enrollment and we will be in touch with you to let you know your particular class schedule.
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:
www.uptoparents.org—a program in Indiana
www.coparentsolutions.com—a program in California
www.highconflictinstitute.com—a program in California
reachinstitute.asu.edu/programs/new-beginnings—a program in Arizona
See also www.swhd.org/programs/child-welfare/new-beginnings-program
extension.umn.edu/parenting/divorce-and-other-family-transitions—a program in Minnesota
 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. and Pruett, M.K. (2009). Child adjustment and high conflict divorce. In R.M. Galatzer-Levy and L. Kraus (Eds.) The Scientific Basis of Child Custody Decisions (2nd Ed.). New York: John Wiley andSons, 353-375.