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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. 

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