Parenting Education Courses (Standing Order 4-08)

In Massachusetts, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting education course.  A number of parenting classes are available around the state.  The purpose of the parenting education course is to ensure that all parties vying for custody or time-sharing are aware of the needs of their children.  Even amicable, experienced parents must complete this course for the court’s peace of mind.

If a party cannot complete the course due to incarceration, language barrier, or military service, they must file this motion.   If granted, the court may allow the party to attend an online course.

Parties must pay for the parenting education course.  If a party cannot afford the fee, the party should file an Affidavit of Indigency with the court.  If granted, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will pay the cost on behalf of the indigent party. 

What to Expect on DOR Day

If you file a motion for a modification of child support in Massachusetts, you are likely to be called to court on a DOR (Department of Revenue) day.  Before your hearing, the DOR will mail you a notice of the hearing, the courthouse location, and the financial statement.  As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, you must carefully complete the financial statement.  If you are going to make copies, use pink paper.  (This helps the courthouse keep the filed financial statements separate and unavailable to the public.)  Sign your financial statement on the day of the hearing.

At court, you will first check in with the DOR table.  They are located in different locations in different courthouses, but the security guards, bailiffs, and courtroom clerks can direct you.  At the DOR table, the DOR representative will ask you if all parties are present and if all counsel is present.   DOR will also collect your financial statement and the opposing party’s statement.

You should then be prepared to wait a long time.  There are a limited number of DOR attorneys, and they must meet with a full docket’s worth of clients.  It could take hours for DOR to call your case, so bring a book or newspaper. 

At long last, a DOR attorney will call your case and you and the opposing party will meet with the DOR attorney.  The DOR attorney is not a judge, an attorney for you, nor attorney for opposing party.  Instead, the attorney represents the Department of Revenue.  The attorney will review both financial statements and ask you some background questions.  The DOR attorney then applies the Child Support Guidelines to the facts, as you’ve presented them, and determines what the payor parent should provide the recipient parent weekly.  You and the opposing party can stipulate to this amount and sign an agreement, in which case you’ll likely be done and free for the day.

If you do not agree to DOR’s calculation, you will need to wait (a long time) until a judge is available to hear from both parties and the DOR attorney.  The DOR attorney will advocate for his or her calculation, so your own attorney will need to make a strong argument to the judge for deviation from the same.