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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.