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High Conflict Parent Education Classes

by: Christina Harms

Research extensively documents the well-recognized problem that a relatively small number of fami¬lies 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. Persisting interparental conflict and parent¬ing effectiveness are the two variables that have the greatest effect on children’s adjustment to divorce or other changes in family con¬stellation. Courts, family law professionals and the mental health community are concerned about how relentless conflict between parents can negatively affect children’s social, emotional, behav¬ioral, and academic functioning. A program for parents who are in high-conflict divorce and separation situations is now available at the Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (“MSPP”) in Newton.

The program consists of 27 hours of class time (9 evening sessions, 3 hours each), manda¬tory attendance of both parents together, taught by a two-person team of facilitators. Class membership is limited to six couples (12 people). The co-facilitators are gender mixed (one male, one female) and skill-mixed (one psychology professional and one legal professional). The syllabus is a well-established model in use in other states with significant success in teaching co-operative co-parenting with positive outcomes for children of divorcing parents. The charge for this class is $950 per person. During the course, parents are taught skills which help them solve problems faster, save money by avoiding long court battles, and create a calmer atmosphere for themselves and their child(ren). A judge of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court orders parents to participate in these sessions. Attendance is mandatory and is reported back to the court. Both parents attend the classes together for nine consecutive weekly sessions. 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.

The class is based on the following principles:

  • 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
  • Parents do better when children do better
  • There are skills that help people solve disagreements
  • Parents can learn these skills

More information on these High Conflict Parent Education classes is available by contacting the Director of the program, Christina Harms, at Christina_harms@mspp.edu.


© 2017 Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC. Westwood and Northampton, MA
781.708.4445 | 413.341.1017 | Email: info@levinedisputeresolution.com

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