Co-parenting by choice – what is it and what do you need to consider?

Co-parenting by choice – what is it and what do you need to consider?

When faced with the term ‘co-parenting’ many people, understandably, think of divorced or separated parents who are sharing the care of their existing children.

However, there is a completely different meaning to co-parenting, which is becoming an increasingly popular family-building method in the UK.

A viable alternative

Co-parenting in this form is to conceive and raise a much-wanted child with someone you are not in a romantic relationship with.

Often co-parents will live separately too. They may have known each other for many years or they may have met solely to create a family.

Arrangements take numerous different forms but the common feature is that each adult involved wishes to have a child and to parent, to some degree.

There has been a huge growth in this type of co-parenting over the last decade, with more and more single men, women and gay couples favouring this route over donor conception, surrogacy and adoption.

How does it work?

Co-parenting arrangements can be between 2, 3 or even 4 adults.

  • In the former scenario, a single man and a woman who both want a child may have decided to embark on parenthood as a joint endeavour.
  • In the latter, it might be that two same-sex couples have decided to raise a child together.
 

Whatever the setup, there will be a degree of input from each side although the finer details of care and living arrangements could fall anywhere on a large spectrum. Like all families, co-parenting families find their own way.

It is important to be clear from the outset what roles and responsibilities each party will have – sometimes the law is supportive of that, other times it is not (for example – only two people can be recognised as a child’s legal parents, which is at odds with many co-parenting arrangements).

One way to formalise this and manage expectations in a transparent and cohesive way is to put in place a co-parenting agreement prior to conception.

What is the practical benefit of having a written agreement?

Primarily, the exercise of putting a co-parenting agreement in place enables open discussions about everyone’s hopes and plans for the arrangement; how it will work and who will play what role. Significantly, this also allows any underlying issues or disparities to naturally come to the fore so that they can be dealt with and ironed out before they are realised after birth and become a bigger problem.

Secondly, an agreement is a useful tool to record the basic facts and intentions surrounding the arrangement. This, in turn, creates a written aide memoire which can be referred to and built upon throughout the child’s life, as well as an evidential document which could prove helpful if a dispute were ever to arise.

Conclusion

Co-parenting can be incredibly positive where the parties have taken their time to consider and discuss the parameters of their arrangement and come together to reach a mutual agreement.

The catalyst for building that solid foundation is often the written agreement itself, due to the process involved in creating and shaping the document. In our experience, where arrangements fall apart or turn sour it is because of mismatched expectations, often borne from a lack of thorough discussion and planning pre-conception.

If you are hoping to co-parent and would like some further information and guidance on how the law affects your planned arrangement and what you need to do to put an agreement in place please contact our specialist solicitor Nicola Scott.

For legal advice on fertility and surrogacy.

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