Parent Education Program: Unknown Court Orders to Parents

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

parent education program parents' initial reaction

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

Parent Education Program in Minnesota Family Law Cases

Parent Education Requirement in Minnesota Family Law Cases

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

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

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

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

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

Court-Ordered Co-Parenting Programs in Minnesota

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

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

What’s Taught in a Parent Education Program?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who would find this book most helpful?

This book is ideal for:

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

More About the Author

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

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

Chime in Below…

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

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

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

Divorce Recall: Unveiling New Families

New families are developing today- families that involve separate households, step-children, coparenting, second marriages, and so on. So, what about society’s current views of divorce? Have they changed too? For families who are trying to move forward and the children stuck in the middle, the stigma of divorce can be very detrimental.

David Dickerman, author of Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else, a children’s book that uses clay illustrations to reframe the concept of divorce in a new light, challenges current notions of divorce in his featured article below. 

New Families in Today's Divorce

* Find information about the author, David Dickerman, read reviews for his children’s book about divorce, and where you can buy it at the end of this article. 

New Families in Divorce

Brave New Families

Every relationship is different. Some people gravitate towards a partner more similar to themselves in order to connect through common interests and backgrounds, while others prefer to be with their polar opposites in order to be challenged and exposed to new things. Since people are all different, no relationships can be identical. Therefore, it would stand to reason that every marriage would be different as well. If this logic is sound, would it not make sense that every divorce would be different too? 

Although the traditional view of marriage (with the woman staying home and caring for the house and kids while the husband works) has changed, our ideas about divorce remain the same. When the D-word is uttered, scenes of confrontational custody battles and alimony wars come to mind. However, generalities cannot be made about any relationships – whether it’s a marriage, family, divorce, etc…

Do some divorcing couples argue over custody and disagree about alimony? Yes, just like there are families where the wife stays at home while the husband works. However, there are also families where both parents work, same – sex couples, the father stays home, grandma moves in, sons and daughters play with step-siblings, etc…

As the nature of families change it is our responsibility, as a society, to acknowledge these changes and adapt. Just like we know more about medicine than we did a hundred years ago, we also know more about families and divorce. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to pass these evolving views down to our children.

Statistics show that people are now marrying later in life for reasons such as wanting time to establish a career and waiting to marry for love. This does not make the institution of marriage flawless. Nor does it change the fact that where there is marriage, there is also divorce.

Fortunately, changes have started to arise as the term “co-parenting” strutted onto the scene. Slowly, people are coming to accept that if children are involved, getting a divorce severs the marriage relationship, but gives rise to a new relationship with parenting.

As I mentioned before, families come in all shapes and sizes, and this also applies to divorced families. Some parents end contact with one another after the divorce and communicate with one another mainly through others, while some divorced families get together for sporting events and celebrate the holidays together.

Families are not the same because marriage is not the same. As a society we are trying to make a new type of family exist in an archaic construct. It is a losing battle that does not have to be lost if we reframe the idea of family and divorce to our children. 

People change and grow, sometimes in the same direction and sometimes not. If a couple produces children they both love, built something strong together, and end because they have become different people while still remaining friends, why is this considered a failure? Can a successful marriage end? It depends on how you handle the divorce…

By David Dickerman

New Families after Divorce

What are your thoughts? Is he on to something? Chime in below ~

About the Author:

David Dickerman was born in Dallas, Texas. He has a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and pursued a Master’s in general childhood education and literacy from Bank Street College in New York City.

David began working with children at a young age as a camp counselor, and in after school programs. These experiences, coupled with his post-secondary education, prepared David for his multi-faceted career as a teacher, program director, literacy specialist, and educational consultant. David also shared that he identifies as an adult child of divorce (ACOD). 

David currently works as an assessment specialist in New Jersey and lives in the area with his wife, Laura; son, Spencer; and dog, Norman.

For reviews or to buy his children’s book about divorce, click: Mom, Dad and Everyone Else 

What Parents Can Do to Enjoy the Holidays

Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year; and what about 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?

holidays divorced parents

Nothing ruins the holidays for you and your kids, like fighting over holiday plans 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

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

The above holidays are listed only as a reference, and 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.

holidays time with mom

What to Consider When Making 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

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

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.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts or concerns about developing a holiday schedule? Or maybe you have additional recommendations for divorcing or separating couples on how to enjoy the holidays?

We’d love to hear what you have to say; please share your comments with us!