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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 ~

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.