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If you are considering building your family through co-parenting, the expert family law solicitors at JMW can help. Chat with our co-parenting specialists and you can discuss your situation and learn more about the options available to you and your family.
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Co-parenting allows people not involved in a relationship or traditional family structure to raise a biological child together and is another way in which people of any sexual orientation can extend their family. For some, it is preferable to a donation or surrogacy arrangement, in which the other adult(s) involved in the conception rarely have an ongoing role in the child's life.
There are many factors to consider when entering into a co-parenting arrangement. The first is to decide whether you both wish to be legal parents and, if so, to make sure that the arrangements for conception provide for that.
If conception takes place naturally, through intercourse, both biological parents will be legal parents. If the birth mother is not married or in a civil partnership and insemination takes place outside of a licensed clinic, the biological father will also be the legal father. This may not be what you want to happen.
If the insemination takes place in a clinic, it will depend upon what forms are signed as to whether or not the biological father also acquires legal parenthood. For more information about legal parenthood click here.
Legal parenthood has important effects in a number of different areas, including:
- The obligation (or not) to make child maintenance payments
- The ability to make a court application about the child without special permission
You need to consider whether you wish for both biological parents to have parental responsibility for the child. If both parents are named on the birth certificate, both will have parental responsibility. If the father is not named on the birth certificate, he will not acquire parental responsibility automatically and will need to obtain it through other means. Click here for information as to how this can be done. If either parent has a partner, you would both have to think about whether you would want them to acquire parental responsibility as well. The various ways by which this can be achieved are set out here.
Many people involved in a co-parenting arrangement elect to have a written co-parenting agreement.
A co-parenting agreement can set out:
- What role you will each play in the child's care and upbringing
- How their time will be divided between you
- How you will approach specific aspects of the child's upbringing such as their religion or education
The agreement can be as detailed or as flexible as you want, depending on your circumstances.
Co-parenting agreements are not legally binding, and will not be determinative in the event of a dispute, though sometimes they can assist the court in understanding what you had agreed would be best for the child and why.
Drafting a co-parenting agreement in advance of conception can facilitate discussions about what everyone expects and wants from the arrangement, and help flag up areas of disagreement. This can help you decide whether you are compatible co-parents and whether your aims are sufficiently similar. Discussing such issues helps to minimise the chances of significant dispute in the future.
It is never possible to legislate for everything in advance and of course circumstances change, but knowing you share the same goals and values can minimise the chances of serious disputes in the future.
If both co-parents are the legal parents of the child, then either is entitled to ask the court to make a decision on any aspect of the child's upbringing. With the appropriate permission from the court, other relevant adults can also ask the court to decide on disputed issues.
The court can adjudicate upon any aspect of a child's upbringing if a disagreement arises, and it will approach all applications under the Children Act 1989 using the same considerations, known as the welfare checklist, as apply to separated parents.
For details about the orders that can be made and the factors the court will take into account, click here.
The family law team at JMW is highly regarded throughout the UK and we are here to provide the support and guidance you need in relation to any matter concerning co-parenting. We are highly experienced in this often complex area of law and take a proactive and understanding approach to give you the very best chance of securing the outcome you are after.
We are here to make the process as stress-free as possible and will give you the peace of mind that everything is progressing as it should be.