My wife recently filed for divorce (that will likely be another post but not the topic here) and one of the summonses I get in the mail says that I have to attend the Education Program for Separated Parents.  At first I’m thinking, “Okay.  I can see how this would be useful for the majority of people (me not included).”  However, as I read more about it and  see the registration form I start to realize the whole thing seems more like a shake-down than anything else.  Let me explain what I’ve learned.

The program is run by a 65-year-old retired Penn State associate professor named Jennifer Mastrofski who developed it with a local judge while working at Penn State.  The class was initially offered through Penn State but is now offered by a consulting company owned by Mrs. (I’m not going to give her the respect of referring to her as Dr.) Mastrofski.  The classes offered at various county courthouses around central Pennsylvania and it appears there is only one person/company that offers them.

The cost of the program is $55; although the letter from the court says it’s $50.  Apparently Mrs. Mastrofski increased the price without notifying the court.

The letter from the court says that anyone filing divorce or custody documents that has children under the age of 18 must register and attend the class within 60 days of filing.  Thus, at first, since I have not filed anything, I didn’t think it applied to me.  However, that seemed really odd so I called and indeed anyone involved in the filing must attend.

After I complained a little bit and the person I was talking to at the courthouse acknowledge the whole thing seemed a little shady, she told me that I actually had another option.  This option was to take the class online at http://online.divorce-education.com.  It turns out this costs $40 and is much more convenient than driving 20 miles to spend four hours in a little conference room in the middle of a weekday.  I asked why they didn’t mention this in the letter and she said, “They didn’t want us to.”  Hmm?

So, in summary, Jennifer Mastrofski has convinced the courts in central PA that nearly every person involved in a divorce must pay her $55 to watch video tapes she’s made of children talking about their separated parents.  It would be interesting to see the financials of Mastrofski’s consulting business to see how much she makes off this.

My take on this:  it’s a scam that governments around here have fallen for in the name of the children.  What if I wanted to start a competing consulting firm?  Would that be allowed?  I am utterly flabbergast by this entire thing.  I can certainly see that it would in general be a good idea for most parents and it would be hard to determine which parents could possibly safely opt out.  However, to advertise only one option to complete this requirement that puts money into the pocket of someone who worked to make it a requirement is really shady.  Honestly, I cannot imagine having this requirement and not making the financial information of the sole-source available has got to violate some rights.

The other thing that I just cannot fathom is that the courts require this but not any kind of counseling to try to save the marriage.  Isn’t that what would be best for the kids, trying to save the marriage.  What seems to have happened is that the marriage counselors are not as savvy as Jennifer Mastrofski (who is also affiliated with the PSU business school) to realize the way to guarantee your business thrives is to force people to use it through corrupt politics.