In recent months, the idea of platonic co-parenting has gained traction. A recent article in The Guardian on the topic was written by a woman who, after much back and forth, decided to have a baby with her gay best friend. The friends were both happily single, but wanted a child and were concerned about the social and financial implications of raising a child as a single parent.
Platonic co-parenting can take a variety of different forms and can be entered into for a whole host of different reasons. It can be between an opposite sex ‘couple’, same sex, or even as three parents where the couple are unable to have children so bring in a friend who not only can be a donor but can be present as another parental figure.
In essence, platonic co-parenting is when a child is raised by two or more people who are not, and have not in the past been, in a romantic relationship (although there may be a romantically involved same-sex couple as part of a three+ parental group). The child might be conceived by treatments like IVF, intracervical insemination (ICI) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). The prospective parents may choose to go down the surrogacy route or adopt a child.
What does platonic co-parenting look like?
Platonic co-parenting looks different for every set of parents. The reasons behind platonic co-parenting are as varied as how it can look in practise, but some reasons might be:
- Two happily single individuals each want to have a baby,
- Financial constraints mean an individual cannot afford to be a single parent,
- A same-sex couple want to have a child with a donor and the donor wants a relationship with the child.
With any number of reasons for wanting to platonically co-parent, how it can look practically is unique to the situation. However, by definition, platonic co-parenting means that each parent is involved in the upbringing of the child, whether they are biologically connected or not.
Each set of parents will need to come to an agreement about how conception will work, and what the practicalities will be once the baby is born. For example, for the woman and her gay best friend mentioned above, they came to an agreement that they would try ICI first to get pregnant, and then IVF. They discussed finances and decided on a 50/50 split, potential baby names, the baby’s surname and where the child, and the parents, would live (for the first year the father would move in with the mother and baby).
In some cases, there are more than two parents. The law only recognises two legal parents; however, platonic co-parenting opens up opportunities for more communal parenting responsibility.
In some cases, a same-sex couple may ask a close friend to be a donor, or a surrogate mother, and this friend becomes part of the family. In other examples, a gay couple and a lesbian couple might ‘join forces’ to have a four-parent family.
There are also matchmaking apps now that allow prospective parents to meet each other or meet sperm donors.
Is it legal/How can I make it legal?
Platonic co-parenting is entirely legal.
Complications can arise with the difficulties in law around parental responsibility and each platonic co-parenting relationship will be unique. However, if a parent wants to have legal guardianship of a child, this must be registered.
For example, if a heterosexual ‘couple’ have a child together, the father can be officially recognised as the child’s legal parent by being named on the birth certificate.
The law only allows for two legal parents, so where a group of co-parents want to raise a child, only two can be recognised as such. The woman who carries the child will automatically be recognised as the child’s legal parent. However, the law allows for more than two people to have parental responsibility, for example as step-parents, or grandparents.
For families where there are more than two parents, it is important to consider what other arrangements and agreements you may need to put in place to grant parental responsibility over the child. This can be done through a ‘parental responsibility agreement’.
More legal information around platonic co-parenting can be found here.
What are the benefits of platonic co-parenting?
There are a variety of benefits of platonic co-parenting, and these do depend on your unique situation. However, here are a few:
- It allows happily single individuals to become parents without the pressure of solo parenting,
- Sperm donors can have a more active role in the child’s life,
- Potentially more people with parental responsibility – this can mean more support and love for the child,
- It is another way for the LGBTQIA+ community to become parents without requiring romantic relationships with the opposite sex.
Are there any downsides?
As with parenting generally, there can be conflict in co-parenting relationships, which is why it is important to discuss legal, social, environmental, and physical factors before embarking on the journey. These can be made into a Co-Parenting Agreement, more widely known as a Parenting Plan, which, whilst not legally binding, help define the expectations of each parent and what agreements have been made.
Communication is key in all parenting and the more open and transparent you are with your other co-parents, the better. It is important to get all your thoughts out on the table and discuss what compromises may need to be reached.
The law can be complicated in areas such as surrogacy, and fertility treatments, so you might need to seek legal advice around these matters, and around seeking parental responsibility.
If disagreements do arise, mediation can often help resolve difficulties and help co-parents reach amicable solutions.