For co-parents and involved known donors
Co-parenting arrangements typically involve two, three or four parents, all sharing responsibility for their child’s upbringing, even though they are not in a relationship with each other. If you are a gay or single man wishing to become a father, this can give you a more significant parental role than if you act as a known donor. If you are a lesbian couple or a single woman, co-parenting can give your child an involved father.
The first question is always who will be treated as your child’s legal parents. If the carrying mother is in a civil partnership, her partner will automatically be the child’s second legal parent in most cases, excluding the parenthood status of the other co-parents. If the carrying mother is not in a civil partnership, then she may be able to choose which other co-parent is named on the birth certificate with her and becomes a full legal parent (although this depends on the place and circumstances of conception).
Various steps can be taken to obtain recognition for the other co-parents, including limited parental responsibility and guardianship rights in the event of death. In some situations, co-parents can be given status privately by signing documentation. In others, an application to court may be necessary.
Putting in place a co-parenting agreement is usually a good idea. With more adults involved in a child’s upbringing it is important to be clear on issues of legal parenthood and what roles and financial responsibilities everyone will have. While a co-parenting agreement is not strictly legally binding and a court would be free to act in a child’s best interest if a dispute arose between you, the process of putting an agreement in place can be helpful in managing everyone’s expectations. A legal document would also be taken into account by a court hearing any dispute, and would be likely to be given weight if reasonable in its terms, properly drafted and prepared following independent legal advice.
For more information, visit Natalie Gamble Associates' pages on donor conception and co-parenting law.