Randomized Control Trial Follow-Up: Online Program and Waiting Period for Unmarried Parents in Title IV-D Court

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Despite a lack of research on parent programs for separating unmarried parents, many judicial officers mandate participation. Rudd, Holtzworth-Munroe, Reyome, Applegate, and D’Onofrio (2015) conducted the only randomized controlled trial of any online parent program for separating parents, ProudToParent.org (PTP), and related court processes (e.g., having a waiting period between the establishment of paternity and the court hearing regarding child related issues vs. having the hearing the same day). They recruited a unique sample of 182 cases in a Title IV-D Court (i.e., a court for primarily low income parents) (Authorization of Appropriations, 42 U.S.C. § 651, 2013), in which paternity was previously contested but subsequently established via court-ordered genetic testing. Unexpectedly, cases assigned to PTP and a waiting period were the least likely to reach agreement at their court hearing. In the current study, we extend these results to examine the impact of the study conditions on relitigation in the year following the court hearing; only 11.2% of cases filed a motion, and 7.8% had a hearing. The group that was least likely to reach full initial agreement (i.e., assigned to PTP and the waiting period) were the most likely to relitigate. Further, controlling for study conditions, reaching a full agreement in the Title IV-D court decreased the odds of having a court hearing in the following year. Reaching agreements on the specific issues involved in such cases (e.g., custody, child support) reduced the likelihood of both motions and hearings in the year after the Title IV-D hearings. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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