Each year, over 5,000 children are born in Hennepin County to unmarried parents. 80% of the parents are together in a romantic relationship at the time of their child’s birth. By the time the child is five years old, most of the parents are no longer together. Some challenges the parents face are poverty, unstable housing, criminal backgrounds, domestic violence, chemical abuse, mental health issues, and relationship distrust.
Jennifer Mahowald and Melissa Theis, paralegal students who are supervised by Charles Feige, JD, have created a handbook that will help unmarried parents navigate the legal system. Through their work as interns at Hennepin County, they have become very familiar with the Co-Parent Court process. The handbook provides Co-Parent Court information on location, staff, scheduling, dress code, duties, notes for writing orders, and ETO Software usage (www.engineertoorder.com).
Melissa Theis, said, “I loved doing this internship. I met a lot of nice and helpful people. It was interesting to get an in-depth look at the court system.”
Co-Parent Court is a three year demonstration project that provides free co-parenting help to unmarried parents selected to participate in the project. This is where paternity and child support is established. Legal fatherhood and parents’ financial contributions to their child(ren) will be set. Six co-parent education classes, provided by NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, will be required. Mothers will receive individualized support from Gateway program, NorthPoint’s collaborative project with Hennepin County to streamline services for clients who are involved with two or more social service agencies to increase their likelihood of becoming self-sufficient. (http://www.northpointhealth.org/ )Fathers will gain support from Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota’s FATHER Project. “This is designed for metro area fathers, who are low-income, non-custodial dads to assist them in becoming more involved in their children’s lives. The FATHER Project’s mission is to assist fathers in overcoming the barriers that prevent them from supporting their children economically and emotionally.”
If you would like to know more about Minnesota School of Business-Shakopee’s paralegal program, please contact Gretchen Seifert, Director of Admissions, at 952-516-7002.