In some areas of law, Massachusetts leads the way — same-sex marriage for example. In one area of law, Massachusetts could take a lesson from another state’s playbook.
The issue at hand is that never-married parents, who may have not even had a significant relationship, are being expected to raise a child together. A Minnesota judge has developed a new way to help unwed parents co-parent their children successfully.
According to a news source, the judge noticed that unwed parents, particularly young parents, lacked the skills to parent their child or children when the parents were also faced with a lack of education, unemployment or underemployment and other issues that could affect their child-raising abilities.
The numbers are grim. By the age of five, about half of the children with unwed parents had little contact with the fathers, and about one-third had lost track of the fathers completely.
The solution the judge developed was a special problem-solving court to deal with the challenges faced by never-married parents.
It is called Co-Parenting Court and here is how it works:
- Participants are invited from high-poverty districts.
- Multiple community agencies are involved in the court.
- Parents are given assistance with issues ranging from employment and domestic violence to addiction.
- Parents must attend four weekly co-parenting sessions.
- Parents write a co-parenting plan that they agree upon.
The sessions apparently stress co-parenting, rather than parenting. For example, each parent is shown how to refer to the other parent in a respectful way when talking to their children.
Attendance at the sessions has reportedly been 80 percent.
Co-Parenting Court is an example of how to take parenting beyond the legal obligations and into actions which have a chance of creating healthy and well-adjusted children in non-traditional never-married relationships.
Source: The Christian Science Monitor, “Judge creates unique problem-solving court to help unwed parents,” Melanie Stetson Freeman, May 11, 2012