In Massachusetts, if you have any minor children at the time of the filing of a divorce case, you are required to attend the Court-sponsored Parents Apart education program before you can be divorced. There has not traditionally been a similar requirement for never married parents in Massachusetts, despite the fact that separating parents will have many of the same issues regardless of whether they were married or not.
Children whose parents live in separate households may face many of the same difficulties regardless of whether their parents were married. Recognizing this need, the Probate & Family Court in Massachusetts has a pilot program in three counties seeking to expand parent education for never married parents. Under Standing Order 6-08 Judges in Hampshire, Essex and Suffolk counties may order parents to attend a program known as "For the Children" when they are a party to a Complaint to Establish Paternity, a Complaint for Custody/Support/Visitation, or any case involving visitation or custody of minor children of never-married parents filed on or after July 1, 2008.
Similar to the program for divorcing parents, the Court may waive attendance for certain reasons, and the Court may sanction parties for failure to attend. The program is 2 2-1/2 hour long sessions and covers many of the same topics as the court for divorcing parents, but focuses on the different needs of children born out of wedlock. The program is open to the public as well.
More information about the "For the Children" program is available on the Hampshire County Bar Association's website here.
More information about the the court procedures for never married parents in Massachusetts is available here.