The Common Ground project brought together advocates, practitioners, and researchers who work primarily with low-income mothers and fathers, to develop and advance public policy recommendations to promote effective co-parenting relationships and ensure emotional and financial support for children. This first report focuses on issues surrounding the establishment of paternity. It begins by discussing paternity establishment before and after the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), the increase of children born to unmarried parents, and characteristics of unmarried mothers and fathers. Perspectives of participants in the Common Group project are then shared on issues and concerns of low-income mothers and fathers relating to legal paternity establishment. The issues are clustered into four areas: the economic impacts of the household on both parents; the effects on family and extended family relationships and on communities; concerns about procedural fairness; and the collateral effects of paternity establishment on other aspects of the legal system. The final section of the report provides recommendations for improvement paternity establishment practices. Recommendations include: parents should be fully informed about paternity establishment; paternity establishment should not be coerced by the State against the wishes of both parents; paternity establishment procedures should be fair; paternity establishment policies and procedures should take domestic violence into account; and paternity establishment policies should increase the economic and emotional support available to children of low-income parents. 117 references.
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