Sept. 6, 2023
New pro bono project helps single parents navigate complex legal questions
Navigating the legal system can be challenging for anyone. It can be downright impossible for single parents to figure out custody, co-parenting agreements, or even worst-case emergency protection orders while looking after the kids and working.
Second-year law student Christy Catalano has navigated some of these challenges as a single mom and found others in a Mamas for Mamas Facebook group struggling with the same questions.
“I had my child during COVID, so I was looking for a support group to navigate the isolation but also find answers to some of the legal questions I had as a single mom,” explains Catalano. “I kept seeing many of the same questions pop up from other members around custody, trying to find affordable housing, escaping domestic violence situations, or even just how to create a co-parenting agreement. And everyone was giving advice, which as a law student, I now know wasn’t necessarily the best or most accurate advice.”
Experience on similar project sparks idea
Catalano was volunteering with the Calgary chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) on the Trellis project, which provides legal information resources for youth, when she thought a similar project would benefit single moms like her.
The Mamas for Mamas Legal Information Project will kick off this fall, allowing current law students to practise their legal research skills and create resources to answer the common legal questions that arise during single parenthood.
“We’re not lawyers, so we can’t give legal advice, but we can point people in the right direction to get the information and resources they need to tackle the legal problems,” says Catalano. “All the information is out there; this project aims to combine it into one resource and make it easily digestible for the audience, especially when they’re in a high-stress or panicked situation.”
Big goals for future years
Phase one of the project will tackle some of the most pressing legal questions, including what’s required to obtain and maintain legal custody, the process for securing child support, parents’ legal rights when their child has been apprehended, and in what circumstances fixed or periodic tenancy agreements can be broken without repercussions.
After evaluating the project's success in the first year, Catalano hopes to branch out to include a wills clinic where single parents can ensure their children are safe and secure should the worst happen. Her ultimate goal is to have the Mamas for Mamas Legal Information Project as an ongoing partnership between the organization and PBSC long after she graduates in 2025.
“Even as a single parent, I’m extremely fortunate to be in the position I am in. I’ve been on the other side asking questions and asking for support in these groups. I’m extremely grateful to be able to give back and support others.”