How To Complete Your Parent Education Order

Although most parents are surprised by a parent education order from a judge, it’s not uncommon in family law cases involving child custody, parenting time, and/or child support in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, because most parents haven’t heard of a parent education order until a judge orders them to attend co-parenting classes, many parents don’t follow the proper procedures regarding a parent education order. As a result, 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: Step-by-Step

Step #1: Read the order and calendar all 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.

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
Research Parenting Classes for the Best Fit for You

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 for the 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.

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 the 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 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.  Your children shouldn’t be at the class.

Step #7: Attend and Participate

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
The Parent Education Class can provide valuable information for attendees.

Step #8: Complete Assignments and Take the 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.

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
You will receive a certificate of completion for the Parent Education Class

Step #10: Submit Documentation to the Court

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! 

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. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Co-Parenting Class, Finding the Right One

As 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.

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.

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.

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
Standards for Parent Education Programs in Minnesota

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. 

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 & 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.

Besides 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
You will receive a certificate of completion for finishing your 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.

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.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

8 Tips to Navigate Court Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota

parenting classes in family law cases in minnesota
How to Prepare for Parenting Classes

In Minnesota, it’s not uncommon for separated and divorcing parents to be court-ordered to attend parenting classes during a divorce or custody 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.

Here are 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

These parenting classes were developed to meet the needs and concerns of separated and divorcing parents. Therefore, the class topics should be relevant, the information should be useful, and the skills should be applicable.

In fact, most parents tell us that these parenting classes are 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. 

Being an active student throughout the entire process will help you get the most out 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 helps to know your rights when you’ve been 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.

Tip # 3: Take it Seriously

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.

If you request, have good reason and are excused by the court, you can get out of Court-ordered parenting classes. In Minnesota, the party who wants to be excused has the responsibility to request, show good cause, and obtain prior excuse from the Court. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).

Among other things, this would necessitate: 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.  Lastly, Courts rarely grant this request.

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.

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

However, ‘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 explained in our first post (linked at the beginning), there are several types of parenting classes. Therefore, make sure that you’re taking the correct type, i.e. a parenting class for separated and divorcing parents. In addition, as 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 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.

Tip # 6 : Leave 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 a parent education order. Unfortunately, this estimate only accounts for class participation time.

Instead, for a more accurate estimate of how long it’ll take, consider all the tasks involved. Here’s a free step-by-step checklist to help you complete your Parent Education Order and plan accordingly. 

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.

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 parenting classes for separated and divorced parents 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 

The program provider or class instructor should give you a certificate after you’ve completed the program. 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 and completed 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.

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.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

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

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

Armed 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.

What’s “The D-Word” About?

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 “The D-Word” 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-Word
Tara Eisenhard, Author of “The D-Word”

Tara 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 through her store on her website, or it’s also available in hardcover and eBook online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iBooks.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

What Parents Can Do to Enjoy the Holidays

Holidays and Parenting Time

Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year.  It can be worse for separating or divorcing parents and their children.  How do we keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of everything else that is going on during this time?  Few things can ruin holidays for you and your kids like fighting over the holidays and parenting time with the other co-parent.

 In fact, being prepared and planning in advance can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays, such as, being surrounded by supportive friends and family and appreciating what we do have in life.

So with keeping in mind that that best defense is planning and preparation, let’s look at what you can do, as a separating or divorcing parent, to make the holidays a more pleasant time for you and your children.

Create a Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule

If you’re in the middle of a divorce or custody matter, it’s important that you think about how you want future holidays to look for you and your children. One of the best ways you can decrease stress around the holidays for you and your kids is to develop a holiday schedule during your custody now, which maps out your plans for holidays to come. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in your custody order or divorce decree.

holidays schedule
Scheduling parenting time over the holidays can be very helpful

Holidays Included in a Holiday Schedule

Most typically, these are the major holidays that would be addressed in a divorce or custody order: 

  • Christmas Eve,
  • Christmas Day,
  • Thanksgiving Day,
  • The Child’s Birthday,
  • The Parents’ Birthdays,
  • Mother’s Day,
  • Father’s Day,
  • Memorial Day,
  • Independence Day,
  • Labor Day,
  • Easter,
  • Halloween,
  • New Year’s Eve, 
  • New Year’s Day

For some families, these other holidays may be important:

  • President’s Day,
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
  • Veteran’s Day, 
  • Passover,
  • Hanukkah,
  • Columbus Day,
  • Rosh Hashanah,
  • Yom Kippur.

These are listed only as a reference.  Some may not apply to your family. The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to designate whichever holidays you’d like and as many holidays as you’d like with the other parent. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well. 

How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time? 

The idea behind incorporating a holiday schedule in your custody order or divorce decree is that when holidays are specifically addressed, they legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. In other words, let’s say that the kids regularly spend every Sunday with Dad. If Mother’s Day was a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.

What to Consider with a Holiday Schedule

In addition to thinking about what holidays you and the other parent value, you’ll want to consider what holidays are important to your children. For instance, if your children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at your in-laws’ farm, you may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.

holidays
Easter Sunday is one holiday typically addressed in a parenting time schedule, especially for younger children.

Generally, it’s best to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions of your own. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be worthwhile to include them in these decisions and seek out new traditions that match their changing needs and preferences.

It may also be beneficial for the children to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, maybe you designate Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa, again taking into consideration current traditions and plans with extended family.

As mentioned previously, when working together on a holiday schedule, parents can address holidays in as much or as little detail as they like. However, when it comes to incorporating the holiday schedule into your custody order or divorce decree, it’s usually best to include language specific enough so as to prevent conflicts down the road, but also flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of your children.

holidays parenting

Why Develop a Holiday Schedule? 

Perhaps one of the best reasons to use a holiday schedule in your custody order or your divorce decree is that it’s a plan that’s specifically based on your family’s own specific needs and wishes. It also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a court judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised. After all, you, not a judge, know what’s best for your children. 

holidays for kids of divorced parents
Holiday celebrations and traditions can often be preserved

In addition to incorporating a holiday schedule into your divorce or custody order, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details, such as, negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful, depending on the holiday and your particular family, to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.

Basically, it all boils down to the the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holiday, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for celebrating the holiday.

Planning holiday schedules is effective at reducing family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.

Not to mention, advance planning has become necessary in some cases, since some children are now faced with multiple visits, and may be trying to coordinate the holiday with divorced or separated parents, step-parents, and grandparents all in different places.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Divorce: Putting Down the Other Parent

The following was written by Judge Michael Haas after 25 years on the bench in Cass County, Minnesota.  He retired in 2002, however his advice to parents in Minnesota divorce and child custody cases remains as profound as it was years ago.

The Judge’s Letter to Divorcing Parents

“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.

No matter what you think of the other party—or what your family thinks of the other party—these children are one-half of each of your. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.

That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”

To Parents Involved in Divorce and Child Custody Situations

I hope that putting the best interests of your children first is what drives anyone in a child custody or divorce proceeding.  If that’s not enough, there are also practical reasons in the context of a divorce case to be as honorable as you can. 

The inability to get along with the other parent can reflect badly on your character in the eyes of the judicial officer and make him or her question your ability to be a mature and positive role model for your children. 

In addition, putting down the other parent can indicate to the judicial officer that you are not willing and/or able to put the interests of your child ahead of your own feelings towards the other parent.

Judges have a great deal of experience with family law situations and are well able to get to the bottom of situations if one parent is truly bad for the child.  Bad mouthing them, particularly in front of the children, will only reflect badly on you.

Parenting Time and the Holidays

Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays

The holidays are usually a great time for children.  However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience.  When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose.  This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.

The Parenting Time Trap

Holidays can often be a special time.  Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so.  However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.

Ten Ideas for Holiday Parenting Time

  1. The best interests of the children should come first … always
  2. Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child.  This goes for both parents
  3. Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
  4. … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
  5. Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
  6. Understand that the other parent’s holiday decisions are sometimes based on family decisions, not just his or her own.  Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
  7. Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
  8. Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
  9. One side is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
  10. Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to court, a judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably and disregarding the interests of his or her children.  This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  I hope no one has to deal with bad custody situations during this time.

Parents: How to Help Children Through a Divorce

Obviously a divorce is a significant loss to many of the husbands and wives who have to go through with it.  But even more so, divorces can affect the wellbeing, psychological health, and emotional development of children of a marriage.  The following are some ways in which parents can help minimize the negative effect divorce can have on their children.

Distinguish the Parent/Parent and Parent/Child Relationships

Remind the child that it’s not their fault.  Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child. 

On a related note, continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce.  A child still needs this from both parents, even after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.

Keep Divorce and Post-Divorce Conflict to a Minimum 

This may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for the children.  Yes in many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents.  These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent.  This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child.  Generally, follow the age-old adage: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial.  This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment and make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent.   These alternative methods to trial are highly recommended in most cases.

Stand United, If Possible

Remember, parenting doesn’t end with the divorce.  In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit who they refer to as “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”. 

Imagine the difficult choices a child may face if placed in a situation in which the child is keenly aware of the anger between both parents.  The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often.  Children should never have to make those choices.

Communicate Openly and Directly with the Other Parent

Parents should negotiate with each other regarding how they will resolve any parental disputes in the future.  This may involve some form of direct negotiation or alternative dispute resolution.  Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to court should be a last resort of the parties.

In addition, communication should be direct between the parents whenever possible (situations with domestic abuse would be the notable exception).  Children should not be used as shuttle messengers between the parents.

You Don’t Divorce Your Children

Remember, you never stop being a parent.  A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.