Whether you are a mother seeking an involved co-parent for your child, or a lesbian couple considering using a known donor’s sperm to conceive, it’s wise to consider and have documented a co-parenting agreement with the father of your child in advance of conception or (at latest) birth.
A recent Court of Appeal case A –v- B and C, in which my firm represented the ‘donor’ father highlights the value of such agreements. The case concerned a dispute with the child’s lesbian mothers about the role the father should play in his son’s (aged two) life.
A feature of this case was the so-called “restaurant pact” between the three parents (who were friends) prior to conception about their respective future roles in the child’s life. Yet since there were no documents that captured any accord reached, the court was faced with competing accounts about the discussions had and the parties’ differing perceptions and expectations arising from what they had apparently agreed.
A proper, written formal pre-conception agreement would have provided clarity on the parents’ agreement and intentions as at that point in time. The Judgment in A –v- B and C confirmed that the fundamental principle in cases like this one was that the child’s welfare should inform the court’s decision (as opposed to the desires and agreements of adult parenting parties). However, this doesn’t detract from the fact a pre-conception agreement would have been valuable evidence. Even if circumstances and aspirations had changed by the time of the hearing, the court would at least have been able to commence its enquiry from an acknowledged baseline.
Pre-conception agreements can vary enormously in detail depending on parents’ priorities. Some just consist of general statements of principle about future parenting roles. Others are much more detailed, covering everything from future access and sleepover regularity to whom should choose the child’s school and attend sports day.
So, however unnecessary or unappealing you regard the prospect of having to document future parenting roles and rights as you begin your quest to become parents, do consider the A –v- B and C case. Family life does not always take the course expected and a proactive agreed approach upfront can save substantial heartache, misunderstandings, rancor and legal costs down the line as the parties in this litigation can now attest.
For further information please contact
Mr Duncan Ranton
Family lawyer at Kingsley Napley LLP