Co-Parenting is fast becoming one of the most popular methods for gay men to have children. Co-parenting is when 2 or more people, who are not partners decide to raise a family together. For a gay man, this is an opportunity to have a longed for child, with all the responsibility that it entails, but without the commitment of full time care.
Some gay men want co-parenting because their life partner doesn’t want children and it is a good way to have a family without having to lose a partner that you love because of this issue. Women on the other hand often choose co-parenting over sperm donation because they want their child to have a father.
British law dictates that you can only have two legal parents, but more than two people can share parental responsibility. Parental responsibility gives a person the right to be involved in decisions about a child’s upbringing, health and education, amongst other things. Many Co-parenting agreements are between four people; the mother and her partner and the father and his partner.
Being a Gay Dad: Choosing a Co-Parent
Many gay men use the internet to find a co-parent. Take your time and really get to know the person before you make any big decisions. A year is a good recommendation, it might seem like a long time, but remember this person is going to be part of your life for a very long time. You must feel that you know, trust and like this person. You should also have shared values and make sure that you agree on all the important aspects of raising a child.
Conceiving and Legalities
Most co-parenting conceptions by gay men are done through artificial insemination, either at home or through a clinic. If the birth mother is married or has a civil partner, you, as the sperm donor will not be the legal father. However, if the mother is unmarried or not in a civil partnership she can choose to name you on the birth certificate. Couples who have used a licensed clinic will have to ensure that they sign the correct forms for this to become legal.
If you cannot be named the legal father then you can sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, which can be between you and the birth mother, or have it agreed through the courts.
Making a Co-Parent Agreement
Co-Parenting agreements aren’t legally binding but they are helpful in setting down the way you expect your child to be cared for and it should put a stop to any disagreements in the future. You can draw up the agreement with the mother, or get it done through a solicitor.
The agreement can cover:
- Financial provisions, who is responsible for what and how that will change as the child gets older.
- Where the child will live.
- How much access the legal father will have to the child.
- Discipline and general parenting; being consistent with rules.
- Religion, will the child have a religion and will he or she attend church and/or a religious school?
- Health, vaccinations and care.
- Legal Matters – Making Wills and setting out provisions in the event that one parent dies, or there is a break up. A child with Co-parents will not have the automatic right to inheritance, apart from the birth mother and the legal second parent, so making a Will is very important
Many Co-parents arrangements are successful, but it is vitally important to get to know your partner and their family and friends. The Stonewall website, which is a gay rights organisation in the UK has information on Co-parenting and stories from people who are co-parents and other advice for gay dads.