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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

Pin this image to save this checklist for when you complete your parent education order.

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

Pin this parent education order checklist to save for later.

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.