Research shows that children of unmarried parents in the United States are at increased risk of many negative outcomes. These risks may be reduced by effective coparenting. The Co-parent court program supported parents through education and wraparound social services.
About the program
Co-parent court was an innovative problem-solving model aimed at better supporting parents who were establishing paternity. It was a unique partnership of the family court system, child support enforcement agencies, community organizations, and University of Minnesota Extension. One key component of the model was an educational program that provides a safe environment for parents to strengthen their coparenting skills.
This program was co-developed through a partnership by the following organizations:
- University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development
- University of Minnesota Family Social Science Department
- Hennepin County Family Court
- Hennepin County Child Support Enforcement
- Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center
- Northpoint Health and Wellness Center
- The Legal Rights Center
- A stakeholder group made up of key partners, many of whom provided wraparound services to clients of the program, including Domestic Abuse Project, the Father Project, Oasis of Love, and Phyllis Wheatly Community Center.
The curriculum used in the coparenting workshops was adapted from the Michigan State University program, Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for Our Family. The adaptation was a collaborative effort between the coparenting workshop facilitators and Extension Family Resiliency educators.
About the demonstration project
The Co-parent court program was piloted within the Hennepin County Court system from June 2010 to August 2013. In this demonstration project, workshops and services were offered to eligible participants within an innovative problem-solving court model. After paternity was established, parents were referred to the Co-parent court workshops. Through the series of three- to four-hour workshops (a total of 12 hours of education), parents discussed how to best work together for their children.
Because many of the parents who participated in the demonstration project experienced multiple challenges in their lives, they were also offered social services to address their own needs. These services included safe housing, education, employment, and physical or mental health care.
Finally, parents were assisted in completing a parenting plan template that guided them through joint decision-making about how they want to raise their child together.
The 3-year demonstration project was funded by grants from the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, The McKnight Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation. For more information on the Co-parent court project, see these journal articles:
- Co-parent court: A problem solving court model for supporting unmarried parents — Marczak, M. S., Galos, D. L., Hardman, A. M., Becher, E. H., Ruhland, E., & Olson, K. A. (2015, April 17). Family Court Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal, (53)2, pp. 267-278.
- Strengthening the role of unmarried fathers: Findings from the co-parent court project — Marczak, M. S., Becher, E. H., Hardman, A. M., Galos, D. L., & Ruhland, E. (2015, February 19). Family Process.
Next steps for the program
The curriculum that was used to deliver the Co-parent court program is currently in the process of being finalized. More information will be made available on this website as it is available.
For more information about the Co-parent court project, contact Karen Shirer (612-626-3971; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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