When you’re in the middle of a divorce or family law matter, trying to find court-approved parenting programs in your area shouldn’t be a hassle. After all, you already have enough on your plate and these classes are meant to be helpful – not add more stress.
As mentioned in, 8 Tips to Navigate Court-Ordered Parenting Classes in Minnesota, it’s worth double checking that the parenting program you select is court-approved before taking the class. In addition, it’s important that the parenting program you select is not only approved in the state of Minnesota, but also in the specific county where your case is filed.
So, here’s 4 ways to find court-approved parenting programs in your area.
Option # 1: YOUR PARENT EDUCATION COURT-ORDER
If you’ve already received your parent education order, there may be a list of court-approved parenting programs after the court order. Some counties in Minnesota (for example, Washington County) attach a list of court-approved parenting programs directly to the parent education order. If that’s the case, you may be able to find a court-approved parenting program from the court’s list behind the order.
However, the list attached to your court order, may or may not be current. The courts are very busy. Therefore, they may not have had time to update the list. Thus, some of the court-approved parenting programs that are listed may no longer exist or be offered in your county. Thus, you may need to do additional research and inquiry to ensure that a program listed still exists and is approved in your county.
Option # 2: YOUR COUNTY’S FAMILY COURT WEBSITE
If you didn’t get a list of co-parenting classes attached to your parent education order, the county’s family court website may have that information.
We have attached the following links for the following counties:
If you do not find your county listed above, you can search for your county on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.
Please note, that just as the lists attached to a court order may not be current, the same goes for the information on these websites. Therefore, you may need to do additional research and inquiry regarding the programs listed on the courts’ websites as well.
Option # 3: YOUR DIVORCE OR FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
If you have a divorce or family law attorney, another option is to ask him/her directly and s/he can help you find court-approved parenting programs in your county. Furthermore, your lawyer may be able to provide additional information about the programs and the providers and can help you with any of the processes along the way. For instance, if you have a divorce or family law attorney, s/he may be able to save you money by getting the fees for these parenting classes waived for you. Don’t be afraid to bring this issue up to your attorney, if s/he hasn’t already talked to you about it.
Option # 4: THE DISTRICT COURT ADMINISTRATOR FOR YOUR COUNTY
If you’re unsure if a parenting program is court-approved in your county, want to find a court-approved parenting program in your county or just want reassurance that a parenting program that you found is court-approved in your county, you always have the option of contacting the district court administrator for your county. Keep in mind, you may not be able to reach someone immediately. Therefore, contact him/her as soon as possible to ensure that you allow yourself enough time to participate in the program and meet the deadlines outlined in your parent education order.
Lastly, although the parenting program you select needs to be court-approved in your county, there are additional factors you’ll want to consider before choosing your co-parenting program.
Therefore, Read: How to Find the BestCo-Parenting Classfor You, and to make this entire process as stress-free as possible, here’s a Step-By-Step Checklist to help you complete your Parent Education Order.
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.
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.
What To Consider To Find the Best Co-Parenting Class for You
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
In Minnesota, it’s not uncommon for separated and divorcing parents to be court-ordered to attend parenting classes during their divorce or family law case. Although parents don’t need a court order to attend these classes, the law requires some parents to participate. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157). Unfortunately, most parents (reasonably so) aren’t aware of the requirement until they’re staring at an intimidating parent education order from a judge. With an introduction like this, it’s no wonder why most parents’ initial reaction is a combination of anxiety, annoyance and frustration.
We’d like to improve the entire experience and guide parents through the process with this blog series, The 411 on Parent Education in Minnesota Family Law.
Are you wondering…”Will I have to take parenting classes?” or “What are these parenting classes going to be like?” Then, take a look at our first article, Parent Education Program: Unknown Court-Orders to Parents. Now, check out these 8 tips to help you navigate court-ordered parenting classes and avoid some common costly mistakes.
8 Tips for Court-Ordered Parenting Classes
Tip # 1 – MAKE THE MOST OF IT
Because these parenting classes were developed to meet the needs and concerns of separated and divorcing parents, the class topics should be relevant, the information should be useful, and the skills should be applicable. In fact, most parents tend to find the classes helpful. However, like most things in life, “You get out, What you put in.” Therefore, to get the most from the experience, be an active student.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Parenting Classes
Being an active student throughout the entire process will help you make the most of the experience. Before enrolling in a program, identify issues and concerns you have. Then, compare class outlines to determine if such topics are covered. Doing so, will help you select a program that’s right for you. During the program, engage in class discussion, take notes and ask questions. After the program, apply the skills you learned when working with the other parent. Incorporate the knowledge you gained when you’re developing your parenting plan, divorce decree, custody arrangement, and/or child support order. Lastly, continue reading the rest of these tips. Not only will these tips help you make the most of your experience, but they’ll decrease stress and prepare you for what’s ahead.
Tip # 2 – KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
However, with that being said, it’s hard to “make the most of it” if you fear for your privacy and/or safety during the class. Therefore, it’s helpful to know your rights if you’ve been court-ordered to take parenting classes.
Parental Rights When Court-Ordered to Take Parenting Classes
First and foremost, unless both parties agree in writing, statements made during participation in a parent education program can’t be used later as evidence, for any reason.
In addition, class instructors can’t:
Disclose information learned about either party because of his/her class participation;
Make a record regarding a party’s participation (except a record of attendance and completion of the program); or
Be subpoenaed or called as a witness. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 5).
Lastly, if domestic abuse in the past or present is alleged, you can’t be forced to attend the same co-parenting session as the other party. Instead, the court must establish an order that allows the parties to safely participate in a parent education program. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3).
NOTE: Some parent education programs such as, the Parents Forever Program (through an extension of the University of Minnesota), require the parties to attend separate classes to minimize disruption and increase participation. Therefore, even if your court order doesn’t prohibit the other parent from attending the same session as you (or visa versa), the parent education program that you select may. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting and scheduling your parenting classes.
Tip # 3 – TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
What Happens if You Don’t Attend Court-Ordered Parenting Classes
If you’re court-ordered to attend parenting classes, you need to attend parenting classes. If you don’t follow a parent education order and participate in a parenting program, the court can impose sanctions, including contempt of court. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 4). In addition, if you don’t actively participate in the program, or are disruptive, the class instructor may refuse to certify your participation in the program. Lastly, there are deadlines and certain procedures you’ll be expected to follow with your parent education order. Fortunately, not only do these tips address some of these procedures, but chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re taking the order seriously.
Don’t Want to Take Parenting Classes?
The only way you wouldn’t have to attend court-ordered parenting classes, is if you requested, had good reason and were excused by the court. In Minnesota, the party who wants to be excused has the responsibility to request, show good cause, and obtain prior excusal from the court. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3). Among other things, this would include: drafting the proper documents; providing the required ‘proof’; filing with the court; and providing copies to the other party or his/her divorce lawyer or family law attorney.
Tip # 4 – DO IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
The sooner you fulfill your parent education order and take the parenting classes, the better. Fulfilling the parent education order and completing parenting classes as soon as you can is beneficial for a number of reasons:
1. You’re expected to register for, participate in, and complete your parent education program within a certain amount of time.*
2. It shows the judge and the other party that your children are your first priority and demonstrates your dedication and commitment to co-parenting.
3. The skills you learn in the class are supposed to make you more effective and better equipped to work with the other parent. So, wouldn’t you want to be able to utilize those skills as soon as possible to help minimize conflict and settle disputes during your case?
4. Similarly, the tools and knowledge you gain from the class can be incorporated into such legal documents, as your parenting plan, divorce decree, and/or custody order.
*NOTE: Parent education deadlines and procedures can differ depending on the county, previous court orders, and/or your specific situation. The court will expect you to know when you need to complete each task and follow correct procedures. If you’ve been court-ordered to attend parenting classes, your court order may be a helpful guide for such deadlines and procedures. Therefore, make sure you carefully read, understand, and follow the court order.
Tip # 5 – DO YOUR RESEARCH
Although, “Doing it as soon as possible” doesn’t mean you should rush out and take any parenting class, just because there’s an immediate opening. As we explained in our first post (linked at the beginning), there are several types of parenting classes. Therefore, you want to make sure that you’re taking the correct type, i.e. a parenting class for separated and divorcing parents. In addition, as we mentioned in tip #1, selecting the right class will help you get more out of the experience.
In fact, to promote program quality and efficacy, the Minnesota supreme court and chief judges (or designees) of the judicial districts are involved. The Minnesota supreme court sets certain standards and requirements for the program and then each judicial district is tasked with the responsibility of finding and offering at least one co-parenting program that meets the criteria. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.175, Subdivision 1).
Therefore, before paying and taking any parenting program, evaluate all your options and make sure the class you select is court-approved. That way, you don’t end up taking a class that doesn’t count. In addition, because counties can differ, it’s not enough for the parenting program to be approved in the state of Minnesota. Instead, make sure that the parenting program is court-approved in your specific county.
Although enrolling in a quality program increases your chances of finding this experience beneficial, if you’re racing against the clock, nothing matters. Minnesota law dictates that the parent education program and orientation process is a minimum of 8 hours. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 3). Not knowing any better, many separated and divorcing parents assume two days is enough time to complete their parent education order. Unfortunately, this estimate only accounts for class participation time. For a more accurate estimate of how long it’ll take, you’ll want to consider all the tasks involved.
Lastly, part of making and allocating enough time, includes finding and arranging child care during class. Even if you’re taking the class online, it may still be helpful to arrange child care. The benefit of planning ahead and giving yourself enough time, is that you may be able to avoid child care costs. For example, by scheduling your parenting classes when your kids are with the other parent, at school, or in an extracurricular.
Still not convinced of this tip?
Think back to a time when you felt pressured and were caught scrambling right up to the last minute. How pleasant of an experience was that for you? If it was something you typically enjoy doing, it was less enjoyable. If it was something you don’t enjoy, it was made worse. Either way, you’re better off giving yourself enough time. It’s easily one of the best strategies to reduce stress. Not to mention, if there’s an exam at the end of your program, research shows that spaced-out study (rather than cramming) is better for retention (American Psychological Association, Study Smart).
Tip # 7 – BUDGET FOR IT
In Minnesota, most court-approved co-parenting programs cost between $50 – 90. The court expects each parent to cover his/her own class fees. However, if you’re having difficulty paying, some parenting programs have reduced rates and sliding fees. In addition, some parenting classes offer additional discounts (such as, for veterans and military personnel).
Therefore, it can be beneficial to ask about discounts and/or reduced rates before selecting a program. Lastly, in some circumstances (when In Forma Pauperis status has been approved by the court) your program fee may be waived; so you can attend for free or at a greatly reduced price. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.157, Subdivision 6).
Tip # 8 – GET PROOF
Once you complete the program, you should get a certificate from the program provider or class instructor. Your certificate of completion is evidence for the court that you completed the program. In other words, without the certificate, you have no proof that you followed the court’s order. Depending on the program, you may be handed your completion certificate, emailed a copy, or instructed to download and print the certificate yourself.
In addition, it’s important that the proper procedures and deadlines regarding the parent education certificate are followed. For example, in some counties (such as, Washington county) the certificate should be filed with the court and other party within 10 days of the completion date. Your divorce lawyer or family law attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that the proper procedures are followed.
Ideally, these parenting classes are a start to ensuring parents resources and support during family changes and life transitions. Hopefully, these tips not only make the process go more smoothly, but they’ll help make it a worthwhile experience for you.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.