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If you’re considering co-parenting, then our specialist team can advise and support you with the legal requirements to ensure your new family is legally protected.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting refers to the increasingly common arrangement where a lesbian couple join forces with a gay couple to start a family. Usually, the sperm of one of the gay men is used to impregnate one of the lesbian women and all four parents often play an active role in the child’s life. But the co-parenting arrangement can also be one man and two women, one woman and two men or a single man and a single woman. There are no fixed arrangements for co-parenting.

Whatever your particular circumstances and situation, we advise that a co-parenting arrangement is drawn up to protect all parties involved.

What is a parenting agreement?

Preparing a co-parenting agreement gives you an ideal opportunity to consider all the issues that a co-parenting arrangement can create. It is essential to consider all of the issues at the start to avoid any potential disputes later.

The following are some of the issues to consider and include in the agreement:

  • Who will be named on the birth certificate
  • What legal applications will be made after the birth, e.g. parental responsibility, child arrangement orders, adoption
  • Who your child will live with
  • When your child will have contact with the other parent(s)
  • Financial responsibility for your child
  • Decision-making during the pregnancy
  • Decision making once your child is born
  • Provision for future siblings
  • What happens if your relationships break down

Co-parenting agreements are entirely bespoke to your situation and so can include any other specific issues you would like.

Parenting agreements are not legally binding and any dispute involving your child requires that the court considers the best interests of the child. However, if you all take independent legal advice before entering into the parenting agreement the court will give a great deal of weight to the agreement. Entering into an agreement also reduces the risk of a dispute arising later.

Who are the legal parents?

The birth mother is always the legal mother. However, the status of the second legal parent isn’t always as clear and is dependent on the individual circumstances. The factors to consider in determining the second legal parent include:

  • When your child was conceived
  • Where the conception took place
  • Whether the birth mother is married or in a civil partnership

Although a maximum of two parents can be the legal parents of your child, other parents may still be able to acquire parental responsibility for your child by agreement or by making an application to the court.

What happens if a dispute arises?

Unfortunately, disputes may still arise during your child’s minority, despite the thorough planning of the co-parenting agreement. If disputes occur which can’t be resolved, any of your child’s parents can make an application to the court. The legal parents can automatically apply to the court, but the other parents may have to ask the court’s permission to make the application first.

The most commonly sought orders include:

  • Child Arrangements Order – decides when your child will spend time with each parent
  • Specific issue order – decides a particular issue, e.g. which school your child should attend
  • Prohibited steps order – prevents a parent from carrying out a particular act e.g. moving your child to a different town

Our specialist team can help you navigate the complexities of co-parenting agreements to ensure your agreement is tailored to your new family’s particular needs.

Contact our Family Law specialists

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