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McCurrie McCurrie
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Co-Parent Court: A new way of addressing parental involvement

A shift in demographics has some worried about the next generation of children. According to statistics, about 40 percent of children in the U.S. are born to unmarried parents. If parents do not know one another, the stress of raising a child together can be severe. Similarly, an unmarried couple that shares a child and splits up may cause stress for both parents and the child.

That is why a court in Minneapolis is trying a new approach to children that are born to unmarried parents. If the experimental court program proves to be successful, it may be effective in other cities like Jersey City, New Jersey. A change in family law such as this could be one for the better.

Called Co-Parent Court, the program is not just about the money. It is about the long-term care of the child and having both parents present throughout that care. It started when a county family court judge noticed that men were showing up for child support hearings and paternity establishment -- a good start -- but many of the families' futures looked gloomy. According to him, the system was telling a man that he was the father and then telling him how much he would owe. It neglected the fact that the young parents needed support to stick with their children through the 18-year obligation they would be sharing.

Some of these parents that share this obligation until the child is of age do not know one another. Others are low-income individuals that cannot afford much in the way of child support. Some don't even have jobs. With all of these stressors, it may not be so surprising to learn that some of these parents were choosing to shirk their responsibilities as parents.

The Co-Parent Court program is beginning with a small group of parents -- ten pairs to be exact -- in order to learn about how successful it will be. These parents will work with community agencies to address any addictions, mental health problems or domestic violence issues. In addition, they will be required to attend four weekly co-parenting sessions that will allow them to create a parenting agreement for their children.

Source: NPR, "Never-Married Parents Get Help From Special Court," Sasha Aslanian, May 7, 2012

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