Unique Class Helps Clueless New Unwed Parents Resolve Their Conflicts

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, In The News

Need parenting help? Try Co-Parent Court. Credit: Corbis


First rule of parenting: Avoid any personal drama that will make Jerry Springer or Maury Povich stroke his chin and say, "Hmmm, bet we'd score some ratings with that."

That can be a real trick when you're in your late teens or early 20s and never really intended to start a family. You were just thinking with something slightly south of your brain.

But there is help -- at least in Minneapolis -- for the young and the clueless. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the community is experimenting with a concept called Co-Parent Court.

A district judge presides over six weeks of two-hour classes designed to teach people to solve problems that could end up hurting their children. It's all pretty basic stuff. Young fathers, for example, learn the importance of bonding with their children rather than abandoning them.

As basic as it all seems, the Star-Tribune reports Co-Parent Court is a unique concept whose success or failure is being closely watched around the country.

"It's completely innovative, as far as I can tell," Kathryn Edin, a social policy professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, tells the newspaper. "This is the first state, the only state, to try something like Co-Parent Court."

Topics covered in the classroom include communicating, managing stress and dealing with domestic violence. In the final class, couples fill out a parenting plan that states how they'll resolve arguments, decide on the child's education and religion and schedule holidays and vacations.

It even spells out how they'll contact each other. Facebook and text messaging are among the options.

Afterwards, they stand before the judge. He reviews the plans and amends them if necessary. It then becomes a formal court order. If the mother or father fail to follow the plan, they have to return to court and answer for their conduct.

Sound like a job for family court? Usually. But District Judge Bruce Peterson tells the Star-Tribune family court generally focuses on custody issues in the wake of failed marriages. Co-Parent Court is for parents who were never married -- usually young people who wanted sex more than children.

The program is only in its third month, so the success of its first graduates has yet to be measured. It is funded by $875,000 from the federal government, with most of the rest of the $1.35 million three-year budget coming from the McKnight Foundation.

"I think people want to be better parents, they want help," Peterson tells the newspaper. "This whole program works on personal relationships."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.