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What is the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference?

In a Minnesota divorce, custody or family law case, the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference is typically the second document you receive from the Court. Generally, this notice from the court comes after the Notice of Case Filing and the Notice of Case Assignment. However, sometimes you may receive all three of these court notices at the same time. 

Notice of Initial Case Management Conference in MN

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The Notice of Initial Case Management Conference will inform you of the date, time, and location of the Initial Case Management Conference, known as the ICMC. In most cases, the ICMC is the first time you’ll need to appear in Court for your divorce, custody or family law case. The Notice may also briefly explain what the ICMC process is, and will inform you that you’ll need to complete a document titled, the ICMC Data Sheet. Typically, the ICMC data sheet must be filed with the court and the other party 5 business days before the ICMC. However, it’s very important that you know and follow the procedures and policies within your specific county court system. 

In addition, the Notice of ICMC may provide a short preview of what you can expect at the ICMC, along with a discussion of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), scheduling, appraisals, and discovery. All of these processes can potentially be a part of your case. Although, typically you need to use more of these processes during a divorce case than a custody case.

Read At Court-ICMC to learn more about the Initial Case Management Conference with the judge. 

If you’re not familiar with such processes listed above or don’t know how to prepare for them with your best interests in mind, your best course of action is either to hire an family law attorney or try a legal self-help clinic. Regardless of whether you’re represented or not, the Judge will expect you to be prepared to discuss these processes and issues. In fact, judges are especially pleased when the parties have worked together and reached agreements on these processes and issues before talking to the Judge at the ICMC. 

Lastly, if you have an attorney s/he may be sent the Notice of ICMC from the court, but s/he should give you a copy. In addition, you should keep a copy of the Notice of ICMC for your personal records. 

If you’ve got more questions regarding the Notice of Initial Case Management Conference, feel free to ask below.

How To Complete Your Parent Education Order, Like a Boss

Although a parent education order from a Minnesota judge comes as a surprise for most parents, they’re not uncommon in family law cases involving child custody, parenting time, and/or child support. Most parents haven’t heard of a parent education order until the judge orders them to attend co-parenting classes. As a result, many parents don’t follow proper procedures. Consequently, many parents end up unintentionally disrespecting and frustrating the judge early in their case.

However, when a judge is ruling over such important matters as the custody of your child(ren), parenting time, child support, etc…you need to be putting your best foot forward. To help you do just that, use these step-by-step instructions to walk you through a parent education order and our checklist (at the end of the article) to stay on track. 

parent education order

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Step-by-Step Instructions for a Parent Education Order

Step #1: READ YOUR PARENT EDUCATION ORDER & CALENDAR DEADLINES

Step number one may seem obvious, but it’s still worth noting, since it can be tempting to skim over legal documents. (Especially when they’re filled with legal jargon that you don’t understand.) However, even if you have an attorney, you should carefully read all legal documents, including court orders. Along with all legal documents, you can (and should) keep the parent education order for your records.

parent education order steps

When reading your parent education order:

  • Highlight important deadlines and procedures. Because procedures and deadlines may vary depending on your county, it’s important that you follow your specific parent education order. 
  • Put any deadlines (for example, for registering for a program, attending the class(es), completing the order, etc…) into your calendar right away.
  • Underline anything in the court order that you don’t understand. Then, follow-up with your family law attorney or divorce lawyer for clarification.

Step #2: RESEARCH PARENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS 

After you’ve read your parent education order and calendared deadlines, it’s time to research programs. After a quick search on Google, you’ll see that there are several co-parenting programs out there. However, not all programs are the same. In fact, only some programs are certified by the court and accepted for your court order. To save you time and reduce stress, read: How to Find the Co-Parenting Class for You. Once you know what you should be looking for, it’ll be much easier to compare the different programs.  

parent education order and coparenting classes

In addition, depending on your county, a list of parenting programs may be attached to your parent education order. If included, this list from the court can be a good place to start. Just check the date of when the list was updated as some of the programs may not exist anymore or program details (such as, cost) may have changed. 

Step #3: SELECT A PARENT EDUCATION PROGRAM 

Once you’ve researched different programs, it’s time to select the one that’s right for you. As mentioned in Step #2, you can’t just pick any class out there. If you do, you may complete a program that isn’t certified by the court, and thus, won’t count towards your parent education order. Besides saving you time and money, by selecting the right program you’ll likely be more satisfied with the experience and find the class(es) worthwhile. 

Step #4: REGISTER/SIGN-UP FOR CO-PARENTING PROGRAM 

As soon as you’ve found your program, sign-up or register for the class(es). By not waiting till the last minute, you may be able to save money on child care by arranging your class(es) when your child is with the other parent, in school, or in an extracurricular activity.

parent education order registration

There should be instructions online to help you register for your class(es) for your parent education order. Otherwise, call the program provider directly for registration assistance. To give you an idea of the registration process, here is a screenshot of registration instructions for an online co-parenting program. (NOTE: This is to serve as an example only, and not an endorsement.)

Also, it’s important that you meet any registration deadlines. For instance, in Washington County (Minnesota), parents are expected to contact and register for class(es) within 10 days of the court order. In addition, this registration deadline is 10 days from the date on the parent education order, not from the date you received the court order. Such specific details as these, are why it’s so important to carefully read and follow your specific parent education order. That way, you don’t end up unintentionally violating your court order.

Step #5: PAY FOR PARENTING PROGRAM 

Depending on the program that you select, you may need to pay for the class(es) ahead of time. Some providers request advance payment to reserve your spot in the program. Make sure that you get a payment receipt and/or a confirmation number for your records.

For more information about paying for the program, sliding fees, discounts and much more, read: 8 Tips to Navigate Court-Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota.

Step #6: ARRANGE FOR CHILD CARE

Depending on your situation, you may need to arrange for child care while you’re taking the class. If so, do it now, after you’ve paid for the program and your spot has been confirmed. 

parent education order find a babysitter

Step #7: ATTEND & PARTICIPATE IN CO-PARENTING CLASS(ES)

Although this step is self-explanatory, it’s worth mentioning because you won’t receive a certificate without attending and participating in the whole program. In addition to lack of participation, instructors and program providers can decline certification for disruptive attendees. Therefore, come prepared to engage by getting a good night’s rest and turning your cell phone off before class starts. Lastly, if not taking online – arrive 15 minutes before class begins, and don’t forget to factor in additional time for traffic and parking. 

parent education order

Step #8: COMPLETE ASSIGNMENT(S) AND/OR TAKE FINAL EXAM 

Depending on your program, you may be required to complete additional assignments outside of class. In addition, you may need to take and pass an exam at the end of the program. If you don’t pass the final exam, most online programs allow you to re-take the exam without having to take the entire program over again. In fact, you can ask about this during Step #2, when you’re researching and comparing different programs. Lastly, it may be beneficial to factor in additional time if you need to re-take the exam, when you’re arranging child care and/or considering deadlines.

parent education order exams

Step #9: GET COMPLETION CERTIFICATE 

Understandably so, many parents believe that they’re done once they’ve completed the class(es) and (if necessary) passed the final exam. However, now you need to get your certificate of completion. Your certificate is proof to the court that you attended and participated as instructed by the court’s order. Without the completion certificate, you risk having to take the program over again.

Depending on the program, you may get your certificate immediately, or you may have to wait a few days. However, it’s important that you’re on top of this and that you follow-up if necessary. Because, besides following proper procedures and deadlines for registering for the class(es) and taking the class(es), there are also certification deadlines. To illustrate, in Washington County (Minnesota), the certificate of completion should be submitted to the court and the other party within 10 days of completing the program. 

parent education order completion certificate example

Step #10: SUBMIT DOCUMENTATION  

In order to fulfill your parent education order, the court needs to be provided with proof that you completed the program. Along with your completion certificate from the program, this often involves drafting a corresponding document, filing with the court, providing copies to the other party, and obtaining verification that all documents were received.

If you provide the necessary and properly-formatted documentation, the court should be able to easily identify:

  • The court file number of the case;
  • Who completed the program;
  • Which parent education program was attended;
  • When the parent education program was attended;
  • That the program was completed successfully; and
  • The date of completion.

Once you’ve verified that the court and the other party received all the required documentation, you’ve completed your parent education order. Congratulations! You’re done! 

parent education order final step

Just remember to keep all the documentation you submitted, along with your completion certificate and parent education order for your personal records.

Hopefully, now that you’ve seen all the steps involved in a parent education order, you have a better idea of how much time to set aside and the procedures involved. As promised, here’s a checklist for you to use when completing your parent education order. 

parent education order checklist

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Tell us, what are you hoping to get from your class(es) for your parent education order? And let us know if you found this checklist helpful or if there is anything we should add. Just drop us a message below. 

How to Find the Co-Parenting Class for You

co-parenting classAs a separated or divorcing parent in Minnesota, you may be required to take a co-parenting class. Beginning in 1998, these classes have been part of a state-wide effort to provide parents with the support and resources to help their children adjust to family changes and work together effectively.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t know about these classes, until they’ve been court-ordered to attend. Understandably so, a parent education order can be an unsettling surprise for parents. However, we’ve found that the more parents know about these programs, the more helpful they’ve found the classes to be. Therefore, we’ve dedicated an entire blog series, The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law, so parents have the information and resources to get the most out of this experience.

The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law

Most separated or divorcing parents find it reassuring to know that these classes aren’t “basic” parenting classes and they’re not handed out as a sort of “punishment” by the judge. To learn why you’re being court-ordered to attend and what these classes will be like, or to determine if you’ll need to attend a co-parenting class, check out our first article: Parent Education Program: Unknown Court Orders to Parents.

Next, check out our second article: 8 Tips to Navigate Court-Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota. The article covers frequently asked questions such as,
     “What happens if I don’t attend?” 
     “How much is this going to cost?” 
     “What if I can’t afford to pay?
     “Do I have to attend the same class as my Ex?
     “Can my Ex use what I say in class against me in court?

Now, as promised, our third article is committed to finding the best co-parenting class for you. When it comes to choosing a parent education program, your divorce lawyer or family law attorney can help. However, when it comes to the final decision, you’re the best person to decide. So to help you with the decision process, consider these 9 criteria to find the right co-parenting class for you.

co-parenting class

Pin this list to save for later to help you find the best co-parenting class for you.

What To Consider To Find the Best Co-Parenting Class for You

1. COURT-APPROVED

First and foremost, the co-parenting class needs to be court-approved in Minnesota. Specifically, the co-parenting class you choose needs to be approved and accepted within your specific county. Because counties vary, it’s essential you determine that the program is approved in your county before taking the class.

What does it mean for a Co-Parenting Class to be “Court-Approved”?

If the co-parenting class is court-approved, it means that the program has been selected because it meets the Supreme Court’s Parent Education Minimum Standards.

co-parenting class curriculum standards

These 25 standards promote the quality of parent education programs in Minnesota. Although by law (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 1 ), the county only has to offer one parenting program, most counties have a few available. Therefore, the rest of this list will help you narrow down your options.

Stay tuned to the series for more help with finding a court-approved co-parenting class in your county. 

2. CLASS FORMAT/SETTING

When you choose your co-parenting class, consider how the class is taught. For example, you may be taught in-person by an instructor, guided through self-study online, or a combination of both. The format of the class may be mainly lecture-based, or geared towards discussion and skills practice. In addition, it can be helpful to know how the material is presented. For instance, you may prefer handouts and take-home worksheets or maybe you value the visual guidance of a power point presentation and slide notes. Bottom line: When it comes to class format/setting, the most important thing is that you choose the class with the format and teaching style that is most compatible with your learning style. 

co-parenting class

Additional questions to consider when evaluating Class Format/Setting include:

  • Are individual questions permitted at the end of the class or 1:1 sessions available?
  • What is the class size?

3. CONVENIENCE 

As a busy parent with a jam-packed schedule, convenience is a necessity these days. Finding a co-parenting class that is convenient for you to take, can reduce stress. Therefore, it may be helpful to find a co-parenting class that is close by, and has designated parking. That way you don’t have to waste time searching for a parking space (especially if you’re in rush hour traffic).

Besides location, when you’re evaluating Convenience consider the following:

  • Program availability (How long before you can attend? Is there a wait list?)
  • Class Schedule (Time & Dates of classes offered)
  • Class Length (How long is each class?)
  • Number of Classes/Sessions You’ll Need to Attend

Typically, each co-parenting class is 8 hours long. However, the class will be taught in 2 sessions on different days, with each session lasting approximately 4 hours each. Parents are then required to attend both sessions, in order to fulfill the court’s parent education order. Some of these parenting programs are organized so that the first session is an online course, and the second session is a 4 hour in-person class. In fact, in order to better accommodate parents’ busy schedules, Minnesota has approved some parenting programs that are entirely online.

If you’re interested in taking your co-parenting class with an online program, the following are additional questions to consider when evaluating Convenience: 

  • Is the online program available for you to take 24/7?
  • Can you save the work you’ve done and come back at a different time, or do you have to do it all in one sitting?
  • Do you have access to a computer, internet and the necessary software?

4. COST

Most programs in the Twin Cities area cost around $50 – $90. However, when calculating the total price of the class include additional costs, such as: costs for materials and tax (if applicable), and transportation and parking fees (if not taking the class online). Knowing the total cost to take a co-parenting class makes it easier when you’re comparing several programs.

Additional questions to consider when it comes to Cost include: 

  • If you can’t afford the class, is there a sliding fee scale or other additional discounts?
  • What happens if you’re not satisfied with the class, can you get a full/partial refund?
  • What type of payment method is required?
  • When is payment due for the class?
  • What is the cancellation policy regarding the class or what happens if you miss a class?

5. INSTRUCTOR & COMPANY/INSTITUTION’S CREDENTIALS

It’s important that the co-parenting class you take is taught by a qualified professional. Children and family therapists with experience in mediation, family law, counseling and adult education can be helpful class instructors. In addition, some parents prefer to take a co-parenting class that is taught by two instructors, one female and one male. In return, they’ve reported that they felt more comfortable in the class and believed that they benefited by having more than one instructor’s perspective.

co-parenting classBesides considering who teaches the class, along with their credentials, training and experience, it can be helpful to consider the company and/or the institution’s reputation. Typically, parents tend to feel more comfortable with a company or institution that has been in business for a while and is known as a leader/expert in the field. In fact, knowing more about the company can be particularly useful when you’re taking an online-only program and you’re not being taught by a specific individual.

6. CLASS CURRICULUM

As mentioned above, the supreme court sets certain standards for the program. Although these standards guide class curriculum, they’re just the bare minimum. Meaning, the standards dictate what must be taught in the class, but the class can cover more topics. Therefore, class curriculum can be different among court-approved programs. Therefore, to determine what you’ll be learning in the program, see a class outline. As mentioned in our second article, you may want to make a list of current issues and concerns, and then use this list to compare it to each class outline. Finding a class with a curriculum that interests you, that addresses topics you’re concerned about, and teaches skills applicable to your specific situation makes a big difference. 

7. CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

Also as mentioned in our second article, at the end of the program you should receive a certificate of completion. This completion certificate is essential because it’s your proof to the court that you followed the court’s order. Therefore, before deciding on a co-parenting class, find out how their certification process works. For instance, do you need to complete and pass an exam at the end of the program in order to earn your certificate?

If there is a final exam,

  • What score do you need in order to pass? 
  • If you don’t pass, do you need to take the whole program over again before you can re-take the exam?
  • Is the final exam timed? (If so, how long do you have to complete the exam, and how many questions is the exam?)

co-parenting class

Additional questions to ask when learning about the Certification process include: 

  • How quickly do you receive your certificate after you’ve completed the program?
  • How do you receive the certificate? (For instance, is it mailed to you? Are you emailed and instructed to print it out yourself? Is it handed to you at the end of the class?)

These additional questions are important because (as you learned in our second article) you’re expected to notify the judge and the other party in a certain number of days after you’ve completed the class. In order to do so, you need the certificate to show you’ve fulfilled the parent education order.

8. TESTIMONIALS

When deciding which co-parenting class is right for you, consider what individuals who’ve taken the class have to say. Reading reviews from previous attendees can provide additional insight. And because most companies publish client reviews and testimonials directly on their website, it’s easy to do. In addition, online reviews may be available through Google, Better Business Bureau, and Facebook Ratings and Reviews. However, don’t be alarmed if you can’t find several testimonials. Divorce and family law matters are a personal topic and therefore, a lack of reviews can be a result of a desire for privacy rather than an indication of the quality of a co-parenting class. Besides reading reviews from previous attendees, you can also ask for referrals and recommendations from professionals or friends and family members who have gone through the program. Lastly, online support groups and forums can be an additional source for reviews from previous attendees.

9. CUSTOMER SERVICE & SUPPORT

Although hopefully you won’t have any problems, it can be reassuring to know that someone is there to help if they do arise. For example, if you end up having trouble taking the class online or receiving your certificate of completion. Reading testimonials can give you an idea of their customer service and support, but it’s worth looking into deeper. This is especially true, if you’re taking the program online. In addition to determining if they have a customer support/help line, it can be beneficial to know the hours available. If technical difficulties arise while taking your co-parenting class online, 24/7 technical assistance may be the difference between a 10-minute delay and having to wait and finish the class another day.

co-parenting class

Consider customer service and support when it comes to finding the best co-parenting class for you. Seeing this graph now may give you a chuckle, but unfortunately not being able to get assistance isn’t as funny at the time it’s happening to you.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what to consider when it comes to picking a co-parenting class and you find the right one for you. However, choosing a co-parenting class is just the beginning. Stay tuned for a “How To” guide for parent education orders to get walked through the entire process. We’ll also include a checklist to help you stay organized and on track.

Did we miss something? What else is important to consider when finding the right co-parenting class to take? Chime in below to add to our list.

8 Tips to Navigate Court Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota

parenting-classes-in-family-law-cases-in-minnesotaIn Minnesota, it’s not uncommon for separated and divorcing parents to be court-ordered to attend parenting classes during their family law case. Although parents don’t need a court order to attend these classes, the law requires some parents to participate (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157). Unfortunately, most parents (reasonably so) aren’t aware of the requirement until they’re staring at an intimidating parent education order from a judge. With an introduction like this, it’s no wonder why most parents’ initial reaction is a combination of anxiety, annoyance and frustration.

We’d like to improve the entire experience and guide parents through the process with this blog series, The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law.

Are you wondering…”Will I have to take parenting classes?” or “What are these parenting classes going to be like?” Then, take a look at our first article, Parent Education Program: Unknown Court-Orders to Parents. Now, check out these 8 tips to help you navigate court-ordered parenting classes and avoid some common costly mistakes.

8 Tips for Court-Ordered Parenting Classes 

Tip # 1 – MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Because these parenting classes were developed to meet the needs and concerns of separated and divorcing parents, the class topics should be relevant, the information should be useful, and the skills should be applicable. In fact, most parents tend to find the classes helpful. However, like most things in life, “You get out, What you put in.” Therefore, to get the most from the experience, be an active student. 

parenting classesHow to Get the Most Out of Your Parenting Classes

Being an active student throughout the entire process will help you make the most of the experience. Before enrolling in a program, identify issues and concerns you have. Then, compare class outlines to determine if such topics are covered. Doing so, will help you select a program that’s right for you. During the program, engage in class discussion, take notes and ask questions. After the program, apply the skills you learned when working with the other parent. Incorporate the knowledge you gained when you’re developing your parenting plan, divorce decree, custody arrangement, and/or child support order. Lastly, continue reading the rest of these tips. Not only will these tips help you make the most of your experience, but they’ll decrease stress and prepare you for what’s ahead. 

Tip # 2 – KNOW YOUR RIGHTS 

However, with that being said, it’s hard to “make the most of it” if you fear for your privacy and/or safety during the class. Therefore, it’s helpful to know your rights if you’ve been court-ordered to take parenting classes.

Parental Rights When Court-Ordered to Take Parenting Classes

First and foremost, unless both parties agree in writing, statements made during participation in a parent education program can’t be used later as evidence, for any reason.

In addition, class instructors can’t:

  • Disclose information learned about either party because of his/her class participation;
  • Make a record regarding a party’s participation (except a record of attendance and completion of the program); or
  • Be subpoenaed or called as a witness (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 5).

Lastly, if domestic abuse in the past or present is alleged, you can’t be forced to attend the same co-parenting session as the other party. Instead, the court must establish an order that allows the parties to safely participate in a parent education program (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).

NOTE: Some parent education programs such as, the Parents Forever Program (through an extension of the University of Minnesota), require the parties to attend separate classes to minimize disruption and increase participation. Therefore, even if your court order doesn’t prohibit the other parent from attending the same session as you (or visa versa), the parent education program that you select may. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting and scheduling your parenting classes.

parenting classes

To help you remember your parental rights when it comes to court-ordered parenting classes, here’s a quick reference. Pin it now to save for later.

Tip # 3 – TAKE IT SERIOUSLY

What Happens if You Don’t Attend Court-Ordered Parenting Classes

If you’re court-ordered to attend parenting classes, you need to attend parenting classes.  If you don’t follow a parent education order and participate in a parenting program, the court can impose sanctions, including contempt of court (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 4). In addition, if you don’t actively participate in the program, or are disruptive, the class instructor may refuse to certify your participation in the program. Lastly, there are deadlines and certain procedures you’ll be expected to follow with your parent education order. Fortunately, not only do these tips address some of these procedures, but chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re taking the order seriously.

Don’t Want to Take Parenting Classes?

The only way you wouldn’t have to attend court-ordered parenting classes, is if you requested, had good reason and were excused by the court. In Minnesota, the party who wants to be excused has the responsibility to request, show good cause, and obtain prior excusal from the court (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3). Among other things, this would include: drafting the proper documents; providing the required ‘proof’; filing with the court; and providing copies to the other party or his/her divorce lawyer or family law attorney.

Tip # 4 – DO IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

The sooner you fulfill your parent education order and take the parenting classes, the better. Fulfilling the parent education order and completing parenting classes as soon as you can is beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • 1. You’re expected to register for, participate in, and complete your parent education program within a certain amount of time.* 
  • 2. It shows the judge and the other party that your children are your first priority and demonstrates your dedication and commitment to co-parenting.
  • 3. The skills you learn in the class are supposed to make you more effective and better equipped to work with the other parent. So, wouldn’t you want to be able to utilize those skills as soon as possible to help minimize conflict and settle disputes during your case?
  • 4. Similarly, the tools and knowledge you gain from the class can be incorporated into such legal documents, as your parenting plan, divorce decree, and/or custody order.

*NOTE: Parent education deadlines and procedures can differ depending on the county, previous court orders, and/or your specific situation. The court will expect you to know when you need to complete each task and follow correct procedures. If you’ve been court-ordered to attend parenting classes, your court order may be a helpful guide for such deadlines and procedures. Therefore, make sure you carefully read, understand, and follow the court order.

Tip # 5 – DO YOUR RESEARCH

Although, “Doing it as soon as possible” doesn’t mean you should rush out and take any parenting class, just because there’s an immediate opening. As we explained in our first post (linked at the beginning), there are several types of parenting classes. Therefore, you want to make sure that you’re taking the correct type, i.e. a parenting class for separated and divorcing parents. In addition, as we mentioned in tip #1, selecting the right class will help you get more out of the experience.

In fact, to promote program quality and efficacy, the Minnesota supreme court and chief judges (or designees) of the judicial districts are involved. The Minnesota supreme court sets certain standards and requirements for the program and then each judicial district is tasked with the responsibility of finding and offering at least one co-parenting program that meets the criteria (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.175, Subdivision 1).

Therefore, before paying and taking any parenting program, evaluate all your options and make sure the class you select is court-approved. That way, you don’t end up taking a class that doesn’t count. In addition, because counties can differ, it’s not enough for the parenting program to be approved in the state of Minnesota. Instead, make sure that the parenting program is court-approved in your specific county.

Stay tuned to this series for help with finding court-approved parenting classes in your county.

Parenting Classes

These are the minimum standards for parent education programs in Minnesota. In order to be court-approved, the program must meet all 25 criteria listed. These standards give you a good idea of what you can expect to learn in these parenting classes.

Tip # 6 – GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME 

Although enrolling in a quality program increases your chances of finding this experience beneficial, if you’re racing against the clock, nothing matters. Minnesota law dictates that the parent education program and orientation process is a minimum of 8 hours (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3). Not knowing any better, many separated and divorcing parents assume two days is enough time to complete their parent education order. Unfortunately, this estimate only accounts for class participation time. For a more accurate estimate of how long it’ll take, you’ll want to consider all the tasks involved.

parenting classes

Stay tuned for a “How To” article on completing your parent education order. The checklist format of the article will detail all the steps involved. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how much time to set aside so you can avoid feeling like this guy!

Lastly, part of making and allocating enough time, includes finding and arranging child care during class. Even if you’re taking the class online, it may still be helpful to arrange child care. The benefit of planning ahead and giving yourself enough time, is that you may be able to avoid child care costs. For example, by scheduling your parenting classes when your kids are with the other parent, at school, or in an extracurricular.

Still not convinced of this tip?

Think back to a time when you felt pressured and were caught scrambling right up to the last minute. How pleasant of an experience was that for you? If it was something you typically enjoy doing, it was less enjoyable. If it was something you don’t enjoy, it was made worse. Either way, you’re better off giving yourself enough time. It’s easily one of the best strategies to reduce stress. Not to mention, if there’s an exam at the end of your program, research shows that spaced-out study (rather than cramming) is better for retention (American Psychological Association, Study Smart). 

Tip # 7 – BUDGET FOR IT 

In Minnesota, most court-approved co-parenting programs cost between $50 – 90. The court expects each parent to cover his/her own class fees. However, if you’re having difficulty paying, some parenting programs have reduced rates and sliding fees. In addition, some parenting classes offer additional discounts (such as, for veterans and military personnel).

parenting classes

Besides sliding fees, some programs have additional discounts for active military personnel or veterans.

Therefore, it can be beneficial to ask about discounts and/or reduced rates before selecting a program. Lastly, in some circumstances (when In Forma Pauperis status has been approved by the court) your program fee may be waived; so you can attend for free or at a greatly reduced price (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 6). 

Tip # 8 – GET PROOF 

Once you complete the program, you should get a certificate from the program provider or class instructor. Your certificate of completion is evidence for the court that you completed the program. In other words, without the certificate, you have no proof that you followed the court’s order. Depending on the program, you may be handed your completion certificate, emailed a copy, or instructed to download and print the certificate yourself.

parenting classes

Although your completion certificate won’t be as cute as this one, it’s a very important document. Make sure you know how you’ll be receiving your certificate. The court, you, and the other party should all receive a copy of your completion certificate.

In addition, it’s important that the proper procedures and deadlines regarding the parent education certificate are followed. For example, in some counties (such as, Washington county) the certificate should be filed with the court and other party within 10 days of the completion date. Your divorce lawyer or family law attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that the proper procedures are followed.

Ideally, these parenting classes are a start to ensuring parents resources and support during family changes and life transitions. Hopefully, these tips not only make the process go more smoothly, but they’ll help make it a worthwhile experience for you. Next, we’ll help you find the right parenting class for you. So stay tuned to our series, The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law.  

Got any other tips when it comes to parenting classes? We’d love to grow our list! Share your additional tips with us and other parents by commenting below ~

Parent Education Program: Unknown Court Orders to Parents

If you’re a separated or divorcing parent currently involved (or will be) in a child custody, parenting time or child support matter you may be court-ordered to participate in a parent education program. If you’re less than enthusiastic about being court-ordered to take a parenting class, you’re not alone. A lot of separated and divorcing parents initially feel this way.

parent education program parents' initial reaction

Some of this initial annoyance and frustration stems from the “shock” of the unexpected and the assumption that it’ll be a waste of time. Fortunately, finding out that you’ve been court-ordered to take a parenting class isn’t so bad when you’re prepared and you know what to expect. Therefore, this article is the first in a series titled, “The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law,” which aims to do just that! 

Parent Education Program in Minnesota Family Law Cases

Parent Education Requirement in Minnesota Family Law Cases

Although this parent education requirement isn’t new to Minnesota (started in 1998), as a separated or divorcing parent, it’s probably new (and reasonable so) to you. Therefore, here’s a quick look at what the law says about the parent education program in Minnesota.

  • Any parent can attend a parent education program voluntarily (without a court-order) (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).
  • Minnesota law permits a judge to order parents in any child custody, parenting time or child support case to attend a parent education program (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).
  • Parents involved in a contested child custody or parenting time case must attend a parent education program (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).
  • Depending on the judicial district, your child(ren) may be required to attend a separate program as part of the parent education program (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 1).

So, now that you’re aware of parent education laws in Minnesota, at least if you’re court-ordered, it won’t be coming completely out of the blue. Like mentioned above, having this awareness tends to eliminate the “shock” factor, and thus, reduce some of the initial frustration. However, there’s still the reasonable question,

I’ve been parenting my kid(s) for years, so why would I need to take a parenting class now?

Fortunately, these classes are different from the general perception of “parenting classes.”

Court-Ordered Co-Parenting Programs in Minnesota

The parenting classes that we’re talking about are different from the “parenting classes” that we typically imagine. Instead of being geared towards expecting parents, eager to learn the fundamentals of raising a child and gain basic parenting skills, these classes focus on issues that come up when parenting from two separate households. To illustrate, the type of parenting programs we’re talking about have titles such as, “Children in Between” from The Center for Divorce Education or “Co-Parenting Plus” and “Legal and Economic Aspects of Divorce (LEAD)” from Headway Emotional Health Services in the Twin Cities.

Parent Education Program - Different Kinds of Parenting Classes

On the left, is a class outline of a co-parenting/divorce class. This is the type of parenting class that we’re talking about in this article. On the right, is a class outline of what most people typically think of when they think of “parenting classes.” Here you can see how the two types of classes differ from one another.

What’s Taught in a Parent Education Program?

Minnesota developed the parent education program to provide parents with the knowledge, support, resources and skills to effectively co-parent. In addition, the conflict prevention and dispute resolution methods you learn in the program can save you time and money. Lastly, these co-parenting classes emphasize how to reduce the impact of divorce and separation on children. As a result, many separated and divorcing parents report that the program was more helpful than they thought it would be and tend to be satisfied with their experience. 

Parent Education Program Minimum Standards

These are the minimum standards that a parenting program must meet in order to be court-approved in Minnesota. Although it’s still good to see a class outline, these 25 standards give you a better idea of what to expect from the class and what you’ll learn.

Therefore, although you may be court-ordered to attend a parenting class, we hope that by giving you a heads up and a better understanding of the type of parenting class you’d attend, that we’ve reduced some of the initial frustration. 

However, there’s still a lot more to know about parenting programs and parent education orders in Minnesota. To learn about your parental rights; how to protect yourself legally when it comes to co-parenting classes; how to save money on the classes; and more… check out our second article in the series, 8 Tips to Navigate Court-Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota. 

The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes

November 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Divorce With Children

The D-WordArmed with her belief that ‘families can evolve, not dissolve’ and her personal experience of her parents’ and her own collaborative divorce, Tara Eisenhard ventures out to give children a voice in her book, The D-Word:Divorce through a Child’s Eyes.

The D-Word centers around a 12-year-old girl, named Gina and her experience with her parents’ divorce. The story begins with Gina finding out that her parents are getting a divorce and then follows her throughout the upcoming year. 

Although the book is mainly told through Gina’s perspective, her 6-year-old brother, Danny, and college-bound brother, Kevin, are present throughout the story. In addition, you get snippets of her mother’s perspective through the ease-dropping Gina does when her mom is on the phone, and a glimpse of her father’s perspective during their therapy sessions at end of the book.

The book powerfully demonstrates how a child’s feelings, thoughts and responses to his/her parents’ divorce can be influenced by the cues s/he picks up on from his/her parents (regardless of whether these cues are intentional or not). On the one hand, it means that a parent can end up alienating the child from the other parent. However, on the other hand, it means that parents have more control over the impact their divorce has on their child than they may have originally thought. 

In addition, the contrasts seen among Gina and her brothers demonstrate how a child’s age and his/her personality factor into their experience of the divorce, along with additional factors such as social support, involvement of extended family members, and current life events and circumstances, like having to move to a different house or leaving the house for college. 

In the D-Word, Tara tactfully strikes a balance between informing parents of how easily parental alienation can happen, while at the same time providing insight and hope for parents and families who find themselves in a similar situation. 

Who would find this book most helpful?

This book is ideal for:

  • Parents who are thinking about getting a divorce;
  • who want a book that they can relate to and is easy to understand;
  • and provides them with an introduction to parental alienation and what divorce can be like for a child. 

More About the Author

The D-WordTara Eisenhard lives in Central Pennsylvania. Besides being the author of The D-Word: Divorce through a Child’s Eyes, she has a blog called, Relative Evolutions and has written articles for FamilyAffaires.com, DivorcedMoms.com, SinceMyDivorce, Divorced Women Online, MariaShriver.com, The Huffington Post, DivorceForce, and Stepmom Magazine. Tara is also a speaker, coach and mediator for individuals looking to move forward after a separation. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter, or at her office in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

To get your hands on her book, you can order it for $13.95 (with shipping it’ll come to about $18 for paperback) through her store on her website, or it’s also available in hardcover and eBook online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iBooks.

Chime in Below…

Read the book? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Have additional recommendations of books that are helpful before, during or after a divorce? Share with us and other parents below ~

And if you’re looking for more information about divorce with children or books for children about divorce, check out our boards and follow us on Pinterest. 

5 Tips When Meeting With a Divorce Attorney at Intake

meeting with a divorce attorney

Welcome to our last post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

For those of you just joining us, so far we’ve talked about:

The Initial Consultation and How to Use it to Get Yourself the right Divorce Attorney (our first post of the series);

How to Schedule an Intake Appointment and What Questions You Should Ask Ahead of Time (our second post of the series);

What You’ll Need to Bring with You to the Intake Appointment (our third post in the series); and

What Happens at an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney (our fourth post in the series).

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to check out our previous posts, here are 5 tips to make the most out of your intake appointment with your divorce attorney.

Tip # 1: Make Sure the Divorce Attorney Listens to and Matches Your Goals

Not all divorce attorneys are the same. 

Some divorce attorneys are more aggressive and confrontational than other divorce attorneys.

For example, although it’s required in Minnesota, some divorce attorneys don’t put much thought into alternative dispute resolution (methods, such as mediation, for negotiating with your spouse) and instead push going to trial (where the majority of legal fees and costs reside during a divorce). –> If you don’t want to go to trial and your divorce attorney enjoys going to trial and has a high percentage of divorce cases that go to trial, then maybe s/he isn’t the best fit.

Some divorce attorneys are more comfortable with a client completing case tasks that don’t require attorney oversight than other divorce attorneys.

For example, some divorce attorneys allow a client to arrange a property evaluation, such as a house appraisal with a third party, while other divorce attorneys view this as part of his/her billable services. –> If you want your divorce attorney to handle everything, than you’ll be dissatisfied with a divorce attorney who gives you a lists of tasks to complete independently, where as if you’re goal is to save money you’d be happy that you didn’t get charged for things you could do yourself. 

The point is, in order to guarantee a good fit, you need to identify ahead of time what your goals are and evaluate what kind of divorce attorney you want representing you.

Thus, it’s important to make sure that you get a divorce attorney that matches what you’re looking for and is able to meet your needs. So if you haven’t already, use the intake appointment to get to know your divorce attorney better.

meeting with a divorce attorney

 Signs that You’ve Found a Divorce Attorney that Listens to and Matches Your Goals

– Your divorce attorney takes notes when you’re talking about your goals.

– Your divorce attorney makes direct eye contact with you when you’re speaking and provides his/her undivided attention to you and your case. 

– You and your divorce attorney, together, create a plan on how to proceed with your divorce that incorporates your goals and meets your needs. 

*NOTE: If your divorce attorney hasn’t asked about your goals by the intake appointment, that’s a BIG red flag and it’d be advantageous to reconsider your decision to hire him/her.

Tip # 2: Be Prepared to Offer Personal Information

As discussed briefly in our previous post, your divorce attorney will want to collect information about a wide variety of topics that may pertain to your divorce at the intake appointment. Aside from core issues, like your property, debts, incomes, and children, often times more uncomfortable and private issues arise, like domestic abuse, drug & alcohol use, mental health issues, etc… It’s easy to feel like your being judged and that your life is under a microscope when you’re being asked such questions by an outsider. 

However, you may find it helpful to know that the client-patient relationship you have with your doctor is very similar to the relationship you share with your divorce attorney.

To illustrate, just like what you tell your doctor is private and confidential, the same goes for what you share with your divorce attorney. In addition, similar to your doctor, your divorce attorney is ethically bound to do what’s in your best interests. And lastly, just like the recommendations a doctor makes and the medical plan that s/he creates for you is based on the information you share with him/her, an attorney’s counsel and legal advice is also directly related to the information you provide him/her.

meeting with a divorce attorney

So although it’s difficult opening up to a stranger, omitting certain facts is detrimental to your case because it limits your divorce attorney’s abilities. Therefore, it’s best to be completely honest and trust that the divorce attorney is only asking you such questions so s/he has a thorough understanding of your situation. After all, your divorce attorney can’t provide the best possible counsel and legal guidance if s/he doesn’t have all the facts.

Tip # 3: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Clarification

meeting with a divorce attorney

Some people shy away from asking questions. Don’t. Although hopefully your divorce attorney does a good job of explaining things to you, if you don’t understand something s/he said, ask for clarification. There’s no need for embarrassment. The divorce attorney does this for a living. You don’t.

Therefore, neither your divorce attorney nor yourself, for that matter, should expect you to be well-versed in family law and divorce procedures. Instead, your divorce attorney should be willing to talk with you until you not only understand, but feel comfortable and confident in the decisions being made in your divorce.  

Tip # 4: Make Sure You Understand What the Next Steps Are 

As mentioned in our previous post, at the end of the intake appointment with your divorce attorney, s/he should clearly explain what the next steps are in your divorce case. It’s essential that you know what the divorce attorney needs from you and what s/he will be doing to proceed with your divorce. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

In fact, it’s important that you not only understand what the next steps are after the intake appointment, but throughout your divorce case. There will be times in your divorce, when your divorce attorney won’t be able to proceed until s/he hears back from you or gets something signed by you, etc…so it’s important that you’re always on the same page. When there’s a disconnect in communication and responsiveness between the two of you, it prolongs the divorce process.

Tip # 5: Take a Proactive Stance with Your Divorce (Starting at the Intake Appointment)

There should never be a time when you feel like your divorce attorney has lost focus of your goals. If you find yourself in this situation, regardless of whether it’s after the intake appointment or later on, let your divorce attorney know immediately. The more you discuss your goals and expectations with your divorce attorney, the more likely you’ll be satisfied with the end result. 

meeting with a divorce attorney

  • You can satisfy tip #4 and #5 by requesting that at the end of each conversation or meeting with your divorce attorney, that s/he summarizes the key points and the next steps in your case for both him/her and yourself. This way you can be confident that you’re divorce attorney is working towards your goals and you ensure that you always know what’s happening with your divorce case.

Thanks for checking out our series, What To Know Before Meeting With A Divorce Attorney. Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to expect, you feel more prepared talking to an attorney, and you’re able to find a divorce attorney that’s right for you! 

Love To Hear From You…

Besides knowing what to expect, what else would make meeting with a divorce attorney easier? 

Chime in below ~

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

Intake with a Divorce Attorney

Welcome to our fourth blog post in the series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

Our first post regarded what you can expect from a consultation and how to use the consultation to get the right divorce attorney for you and your divorce

Next, our second post regarded how to schedule an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by providing you with a checklist of things you’ll want to ask and do before you meet. Save yourself some hassle and get the checklist now.

Following along with intake preparation, our third post focused on what you should bring with you to the intake appointment. Review the list from this article with your divorce attorney ahead of time to determine if there is anything else s/he would like to add.  

Which brings us to today, What Happens At An Intake Appointment With A Divorce Attorney? So let’s talk about the actual intake appointment itself. Again, not all divorce and family law firms are the same, but we’ll give you a general idea of what happens so you can feel prepared.  

Basic Agenda for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during an intake appointment with a divorce attorney:

1. Establishing a Relationship:

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the intake appointment, is that it’s your first opportunity to establish your relationship with your divorce attorney. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to your divorce attorney and that you can confide in him/her. We’ll go into more detail next week about the client-attorney relationship.

In addition, if possible, take a moment to introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with, such as a paralegal, before leaving the intake appointment. Although paralegals can’t provide any legal advice or guidance, you save money by working directly with the paralegal on case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings. 

intake with a divorce attorney

2. Completing the Engagement Letter & Fee Agreement (Contract):

The divorce attorney you meet with might refer to this as the client retention contract, the engagement letter, the representation and fee agreement, etc… Regardless of what the contract is called, it’s important that you’re able to review it with your divorce attorney, ask any questions you may have, and receive a personal copy for your records.  

The contract sets forth the parameters of the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies. Although the contract can be intimidating at first due to it’s length, it’s reassuring to have everything in writing and clear expectations from the start. If the divorce attorney doesn’t have a contract, his/her contract is extremely vague and short, or s/he is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a BIG red flag and consider looking for a different divorce attorney. 

intake with a divorce attorney

*REMEMBER: It’s important that you understand the contract before signing it. If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the divorce attorney. S/he should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing. 

3. Depositing the Retainer: 

Work on your case will start and you’ll officially have representation when you and your divorce attorney have both signed and dated the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer. Since we’ve discussed the retainer throughout this series (see links in the first paragraphs of this article for past posts), we won’t go into more detail here.

Learn more: What is a Retainer and How Do They Work in Family Law Cases.

intake with a divorce attorney

4. Discussing Your Divorce & Providing Legal Guidance:

Most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse at the intake appointment. It’s not uncommon for the divorce attorney to ask you a wide-range of questions during the intake appointment. Although it can feel invasive, it gives the divorce attorney an overview and helps him/her spot possible issues that may arise in your case. We’ll talk more about this in our post next week. 

intake with a divorce attorney

At this time, you can also bring up any other issues not yet discussed and seek legal advice on any pressing concerns or family matters. In addition, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your divorce attorney will review such documents with you at this time. If you’re unable to bring these documents to the intake appointment for whatever reason, it’s essential that you and your divorce attorney still discuss such matters and that a plan is set in motion to get these documents as soon as possible.

5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case: 

At the end of your intake appointment, based on your goals, situation, and preferences, you and your divorce attorney should develop a plan for moving forward with your divorce. Before leaving the intake appointment, the divorce attorney should clearly explain what s/he will be doing and what s/he will be needing from you.  

intake with a divorce attorney

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what happens at an intake appointment with a divorce attorney. Now, check out our 5 tips when meeting with a divorce attorney at intake

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

appointment with a divorce attorney

Welcome to the third post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

In our first post, we discussed what to expect during a consultation and how to use the consultation to find the best divorce attorney for you.

Next, in our second post, we talked about scheduling an intake appointment with a divorce attorney and what things you’ll want to ask, in case you forgot during the consultation or simply can’t recall after talking with a few divorce attorneys. The article includes a handy checklist for you!

Today’s post is about preparing for an intake appointment with a divorce attorney by giving you a few pointers on what you’ll want to bring with you when you meet with him/her. 

What To Bring to an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

1. Current Court Documents:

This refers to any and all court documents you’ve received before your intake appointment with a divorce attorney. For example, if you’ve been served by your spouse or s/he has filed for a divorce in Minnesota, you should have received two documents known as, the Petition and Summons.

It’s essential that you bring these documents (such as, the Petition and Summons) to avoid missing the deadline to contest your divorce and thus, forfeit your right to express your opinion regarding significant aspects of your divorce (such as, property division, child custody and child support).

appointment with a divorce attorney

To illustrate, in Minnesota you only have 30 days to respond after you’ve been served and your reply must be properly formatted into a legal document called, the Answer, which typically also includes one’s Counter-Petition

For more information about the initial steps in a divorce in Minnesota and the legal documents mentioned above (such as, the Petition, Summons, Counter-Petition, Answer, etc…) read: How Do You Get a Divorce in Minnesota.

2. Previous Court Documents:

It’s also helpful for you to bring any other court documents from previous divorce and/or family law cases that you were involved in (if any) before this divorce.

appointment with a divorce attorney

For example, if applicable, you want to bring the following documents listed below:

  • Court documents from any/all previous divorces, such as the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgement and Judgement and Decree. The judgement and decree is the final court document that is signed by the judge, establishes the divorce between the couple, and spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party regarding such matters as, property and asset division, child custody and child support.  
  • Other family law related court documents, such as Orders For Protection, Recognition of Parentage (ROP’s), Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification Arrangements, etc.

3. Financial Documents and Other Important Documents: 

If you have any original financial documents such as, you and/or your spouse’s paystubs, 401k statements, pension plans, tax returns, etc… it’s in your best interest to start collecting these immediately so that you can give them to your divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney

Although we don’t require original financial documents right away, some law offices like to collect these documents immediately. As mentioned in our previous post, it’s best if you find out exactly what documents your divorce attorney will require from you at the intake appointment by asking during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment.

* NOTE: Please be assured that although most divorce attorneys will ask for such financial documents, if you don’t have access to some/any of these financial documents, your divorce attorney should help you get access. In Minnesota, both parties are required to disclose any and all information to one another, but here’s what you should do if you believe your spouse is hiding assets from you

4. Retainer Payment:

Most divorce and family law firms require some form of an initial retainer before working on your case. You can think of the retainer as an initial, good-faith deposit that demonstrates you’re ability to hire a divorce attorney and that you’ll use to pay for his/her legal services. It’s expected that you’ll bring the retainer to the intake appointment when you meet with your divorce attorney. As mentioned in our previous post, you should use the consultation to request information about retainer amounts, payment methods, and fee agreements.

Read: What’s a Retainer and What Should Be Included in the Retainer Fee Agreement.

appointment with a divorce attorney

One last thing about the retainer payment, if someone other than yourself will be paying on your behalf, it’s best that you inform your divorce attorney of this ahead of time (such as, during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment). Some divorce and family law firms will only take checks from a third party. Some divorce and family law firms require the third party to appear in person to confirm identity and to obtain permission; while other divorce and family law firms will take a third party’s credit card number over the phone. The point is, if a third party will be paying the retainer, you’ll want to know if there are any additional procedures that are required ahead of time to ensure you’re prepared for the intake appointment.    

5. Driver’s License and/or State Identification Card:

appointment with a divorce attorney

Your driver’s license and/or state identification card will be used by the divorce attorney to confirm your identity at the intake appointment. Identity confirmation is a very important practice because it ensures your safety and confidentiality by preventing someone from obtaining private information about you and your case by pretending to be you. In addition, if you’re paying the initial retainer with your credit card, your driver’s license or state identification card will prove that you own the account. Lastly, if you’re working with a small law firm or solo practitioner for your divorce, you most likely won’t need to show your I.D. card again to the divorce attorney after the initial intake appointment. 

6. A Guest, such as a Friend or Family Member:

appointment with a divorce attorney

We’ve added a guest to the list of things to bring to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t bring someone with you, but because it’s something that you should decide before the  intake appointment with the divorce attorney. In addition, it’s something that you should discuss with the divorce attorney either during the consultation or when you’re scheduling an intake appointment. Before you decide, know the pros and cons of bringing someone with you to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

Hopefully you’ve gotten a better idea of what to talk about with a divorce attorney during a consultation and when scheduling an intake appointment, and what you’ll want to bring with you to the intake appointment through this blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney.

Now here’s what happens at intake with a divorce attorney so you’re better prepared and 5 tips when meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time

 

Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Scheduling an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney – What to Know and How to Do It

This is our second post in our blog series, What to Know Before Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.

It’s common to feel uncomfortable when you’re meeting with your divorce attorney for the first time. After all, it’s normal to feel a little awkward when you’re in an unfamiliar situation and you can’t rely on previous experience to help you prepare.

So that’s what this blog series is all about – uncovering the unknowns and giving you a better idea of what lies ahead so that you’re not left guessing.

In our first post, we discussed what to expect from a consultation with a divorce attorney and how to use the consultation to find the divorce attorney that’s right for you. 

intake appointment

Today’s blog post is dedicated to what you should do next after you’ve selected a divorce attorney – schedule the intake appointment. In addition, we made a checklist at the end so you know what to ask when you’re scheduling your intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

Schedule an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Once you’ve decided to retain an attorney for your divorce, you’ll want to set up an intake appointment with the divorce attorney as soon as possible. This may seem obvious. In fact, you may be wondering why we even brought this up. However, it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done.

For a lot of people, calling to schedule an intake appointment to retain a divorce attorney means the start to the end of a marriage. Even if you haven’t been happy for a long time or have been talking about getting a divorce, it’s the completing of this step that often makes it “more real” for people and with that realization can come a flood of unwanted emotions and unanswered questions. At this point, it’s very easy to become paralyzed with fear and worry.

However, if you’re past the contemplation stage and you’re absolutely sure that you want a divorce, allowing yourself the chance to meet your divorce attorney can help with some of those unanswered questions and fears and, provide some support.

Schedule an In-Person Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney 

Personally, we recommend meeting with a divorce attorney in person at his/her office for the intake appointment. This allows you the chance to meet face-to-face and get to know the divorce attorney who’ll be representing you and anyone else (such as, a legal assistant or paralegal) who’ll be working with you throughout your divorce. 

Intake Appointment

The only time we don’t meet in person is when the firm has been retained by an individual who lives far away, has mobility concerns or time constraints, and therefore, prefers to have the intake meeting over the phone or by using video software like Skype or FaceTime.

Intake Appointment Scheduling Checklist

1. If you’d prefer not to meet at the office or if it’s difficult for you to meet in person with the divorce attorney, determine if the firm has the resources and ability to accommodate your needs/preferences before you schedule an intake appointment. For example, you can ask if the divorce attorney is willing to meet you at a different location that’s more convenient for you.

* If this is the case, just make sure that the location you select still ensures your privacy and confidentiality. Or if you’ve decided to phone or video conference make sure to exchange information, such as Skype user names, and arrange who will initiate the phone/video conference when you set up the intake appointment. 

Intake Appointment

2. When you schedule the intake appointment, ask how long it will take so you’re not stretching yourself too thin.

* Trying to rush through the intake appointment because you only allocated 30 minutes (when you could really use an hour) adds stress. It’s hard to focus if you’re worried about making it to your next commitment on time. Therefore, schedule the intake appointment for a day when you’re less busy. If that’s not possible, you can always ask if the lawyer would be willing to spread the intake appointment out into 3 smaller meetings. Or try to get some help with your commitments to lighten your schedule. For example, arranging a carpool with another parent for your kid’s soccer practice that night so that you have enough time for the appointment. 

–> In addition, map out your route ahead of time and make sure you take into account parking and traffic on the day and time of your intake appointment. Always give yourself longer than you think it will take to get to your intake appointment. That way, you’re not running into your intake appointment already frazzled because you’re late. 

3. Provide a safe and secure (meaning, it should be private, confidential and password-protected) phone number with voicemail and/or email address, in case the divorce attorney needs to reach you before your intake appointment or if you’d like to receive an intake appointment reminder from the firm. 

* If you haven’t been asked already, let the firm know the best way to reach you and your preferred method of contact. If you don’t have access to a secure phone line or you have reason to believe that your email has been compromised, inform the firm immediately so that steps can be taken to protect your confidentiality and privacy. 

4. Confirm the address of the law firm and don’t be afraid to ask for directions and nearby landmarks. 

Intake Appointment - Directions

5. Ask about parking options for the intake appointment.

* You’ll want to confirm ahead of time if you need to find a nearby parking ramp, have cash/change for a meter, or if the firm provides free parking through it’s own parking lot. 

Intake Appointment 

6. If you didn’t do it at the phone consultation or forgot, confirm the retainer amount and discuss the method of payment. 

* If you’re planning on having someone else pay the retainer on your behalf, it’s a good time to bring this up when your scheduling your intake appointment. 

Learn more about: How to Pay for a Divorce Lawyer

7. Determine what you should be bringing to the intake appointment with the divorce attorney. Use this list of what to bring with you when you meet your divorce attorney to give you an idea and as a starting point. In addition, if you’re planning on bringing someone else to the intake appointment with you, it’s a good idea to discuss this now. 

8. Before getting off the phone, ask if there is anything else you should know at this point. This gives your divorce attorney the opportunity to add anything else s/he may want you to know or discuss ahead of time. 

Hopefully this series, What to Know Before Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney has been helpful. To prepare for your intake appointment, read: What Happens at Intake with a Divorce Attorney and 5 Tips When Meeting with a Divorce Attorney at Intake or pin them to read later! 

Intake Appointment - What to know when scheduling with a divorce attorney

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About

Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.