How do I set strong foundations for a co-parenting arrangement?
Putting in place a co-parenting agreement is usually a good idea. With more adults involved in a child’s upbringing it is important to be clear on issues of legal parenthood and what roles and financial responsibilities everyone will have. While a co-parenting agreement is not strictly legally binding and a court would be free to act in a child’s best interest if a dispute arose between you, the process of putting an agreement in place can be helpful in managing everyone’s expectations.
Co-parenting and the law
Co-parenting arrangements typically involve two or more parents, all sharing responsibility for their child’s upbringing even though they are not in a relationship with each other. If you are a gay or single man wishing to become a father, this can give you a more significant parental role than if you act as a known donor. If you are a lesbian couple or a single woman, co-parenting can give your child an involved father. A legal document would also be taken into account by a court hearing any dispute, and would be likely to be given weight if reasonable in its terms, properly drafted and prepared following independent legal advice.
See the sections on disputes and problems [link to section below] and agreements [link to section below] for more information.
Who are the legal parents in a co-parenting situation?
An important question from a legal perspective is always who your child’s legal parents will be. The birth mother will be the legal mother. If she is married or in a civil partnership, her partner will automatically be the child’s second legal parent in most cases, excluding the parenthood status of the other co-parents. If the carrying mother is not married or in a civil partnership, then who is the second legal parent depends on how you conceive:
- if you conceive through home insemination or at an overseas clinic, then the biological father will be your child’s legal father;
- if you conceive a fertility clinic in the UK, you can choose whether to nominate someone other than the biological father to be the second legal parent (for example, the birth mother’s partner or the biological father’s partner).
Unfortunately UK law currently only allows a child to have two legal parents with full legal responsibility and registered on his or her birth certificate. However, various steps can be taken to obtain recognition for the other co-parents if there are more than two, including parental responsibility and guardianship rights in the event of death. In some situations, co-parents can be given status privately by signing documentation. In others, an application to court may be necessary.
For more detailed information, visit NGA Law’s free and searchable online Knowledge Centre http://www.nataliegambleassociates.co.uk/knowledge-centre
Page last reviewed: 12/6/2018