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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 97-1891



Amendments to Rules of Civil Procedure; No. 97-00100

[27 Pa.B. 6181]


   And Now, this 9th day of October, 1997, it is hereby Ordered and Directed as follows:

   1.  Lycoming County Rule of Civil Procedure L1914 is hereby promulgated as indicated in the following.

   2.  The Prothonotary is directed to:

   a.  File seven (7) certified copies of this order with the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts.

   b.  Distribute two (2) certified copies of this order to the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

   c.  File one (1) certified copy of this order with the Civil Procedural Rules Committee.

   d.  Forward one (1) copy of this order to the Lycoming Reporter for publication therein.

   e.  Keep continuously available for public inspection copies of this order.

By the Court

President Judge

   L1914.  Mandatory Seminar For Separating Families. In all divorce, custody and visitation proceedings filed after the effective date of this rule and in such other cases as the court shall direct, where the interests of children under the age of eighteen (18) years are involved, the parties shall attend the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program.'' The program will be conducted by a service provider designated by the court, which shall be charged with implementing the program in accordance with guidelines issued by the court. This course must be completed once only, even if subsequent custody matters are filed involving the same children.

   Note:  A great deal of valuable research has been conducted to determine the nature of psychological impacts of divorce/parental separation upon children and their parents. This research has yielded specific and consistent results in terms of common reactions, stages and problematic behaviors, as well as successful psychoeducational models and prevention techniques designed to minimize the short and long term negative impacts associated with the divorce. This parent education program utilizes such knowledge in a proactive-prevention approach in order to minimize the negative psychological impact of divorce upon children in particular, as well as parents. This model provides critical education to parents regarding what to anticipate in terms of their children's adjustment process as well as their own. The fact that the parent's behavior and adjustment is very critical to the child's adjustment is emphasized. The model serves to help prevent severe long-term maladaptive reactions and to minimize more immediate negative emotional fallout which occurs in children as a result of the divorce/separation of parents. Another potential indirect benefit of the program would be the reduction in the use of the courts to resolve issues regarding children.

   Court mandated parent education classes are becoming very common in the United States as the preventative value and effectiveness of such program are recognized. Throughout the divorce process parents usually become very self absorbed with diminishing abilities to parent effectively (or even adequately). This occurs at a time when children's needs are tremendous for both proper parenting in terms of guidance and emotional support. For many of these couples, a court mandated parenting education class will be the only modality in which they receive critical information or assistance in the divorce process. Most families will not receive or seek professional psychotherapy or community counseling-educational programs.

   This parent education model utilizes a two part class (two hours each class), and a detailed (and understandable) handbook or ''manual'' is distributed for parents to utilize in class and keep. In addition to reviewing the handbook, the classes consist of a lecture, video and discussion period. Classes will be scheduled at various times to avoid conflicts with work schedules.

   A.  When a proceeding to which this rule applies is commenced, the moving party shall include in the complaint or petition:

   1.  in the case of a divorce, where the parties have minor children, in addition to the information required by Pa.R.C.P. no. 1920.12, the following averments:

   a.  Plaintiff avers that there are children of the parties under the age of eighteen (18), namely, to-wit: (list names and dates of birth); and,

   b.  Plaintiff has been advised of the requirement to attend the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program'' [or the parties have previously attended the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program as evidenced by the certificates of attendance contained in court file, docket number _____ ]; and,

   2.  in the case of a custody or visitation matter the following averment:

   Plaintiff has been advised of the requirement to attend the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program'' [or, The parties have previously attended the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program as evidenced by the certificates of attendance contained in court file, docket number _____ ].

   B.  In all cases to which this rule applies, the moving party shall include in the order required by Pa.R.C.P. no. 1915.15(c) the following language:

   Both parties are directed to attend the ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program'' conducted by (Name, address and telephone number of service provider). You are required to register for the program in person or by mail within seven (7) days after you are served with this order. A registration form, program brochure and instruction sheet has been served herewith.

   C.  Service. The moving party shall serve the order containing the language required by sub-section ''B'', as well as a copy of the program brochure, registration form and instruction sheet, comtemporaneously with service of the complaint or petition which first raises the custody or visitation issue. Proof of service shall be filed, with a copy of the proof of service served upon the service provider designated to conduct the seminar.

   D.  Within seven (7) days after service of the order containing the language required by sub-section ''B'', both parties are required to register for the seminar by mailing or personally presenting the pre-printed ''Lycoming County Parent Education Program'' registration form, along with a registration fee of fifty dollars ($50) or, an order granting in forma pauperis status, to the service provider at the address set forth on the registration form. Any parent who obtains an order to proceed without payment of costs will automatically have the costs of the program waived. If the service provider determines that it cannot waive the fees, for any reason, it shall issue a notice excusing the parent from the program.

   E.  The parties shall complete the seminar within sixty (60) days of the service of the order containing the language required by sub-section ''B''. Court approval is required for an extension of time to complete the seminar.

   F.  Where attendance under this rule would cause undue hardship, a party may contact the service provider for possible alternative program attendance.

   G.  Upon completion of the seminar, each parent will receive a copy of a certificate verifying compliance with this rule. The original certificate shall be filed with the court. No custody pre-trial conference shall be held or final order in divorce entered until both parties have completed the program, and the certificate has been filed. The court may waive this requirement upon cause shown. Cause may include, but is not limited to, a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that one party is purposely delaying the process by not attending the seminar. Failure to register for and complete the program may result in a finding of contempt and the imposition of sanctions.

   H.  The seminar requirements of this rule do not apply to petitions filed pursuant to Lyc. Co. R.C.P. L1915.13-1 or L1915.13-2, where the moving party has alleged either a clear and present danger to the child(ren) or a belief of a clear and specific intent that the child will be moved by the other party outside the jurisdiction of the court and that such move is not in the best interests of the child(ren); nor does this rule apply to cases commenced under the Protection From Abuse Act, 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101 et seq., unless otherwise ordered by the court.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 97-1891. Filed for public inspection November 28, 1997, 9:00 a.m.]

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