No love affair and still a child
Co-parenting means that two or more people without a romantic relationship decide to have and raise a child. While co-parenting has been practised in the USA since the 1960s, it has only recently become more popular in Europe. This family form is a way for homosexuals and couples or individuals to realise their desire to have children.
Through forums where people with a desire to have children specifically search for a co-parent or even several co-parents, realisation and exchange is possible. The number of members of the website Co-Eltern.de shows how high the demand is; as of 23.07.2021, 119,096 members were registered on the platform. Likewise, the number of members on the website familyship.org has risen steadily over the last few years.
What is co-parenting?
The sociologist Christine Wimbauer calls this form of family post-romantic parenthood. The concept describes the possibility of having a child without being in a romantic relationship with the co-parent. In short, two or more people with a desire to have a child "cooperate" to realise the desire to have a child, usually through artificial insemination. This option can be particularly suitable for same-sex couples. Christine Wagner, one of the founders of familyship, also noticed the growth and popularity of heterosexual people who want to have children in the area of co-parenting:
"That it's growing and growing, which we didn't expect at the beginning. We thought it was a small niche for gays and lesbians, and that's it, that many straight people are also interested in it. For example, women around 40 who haven't found the right partner yet. Or men who say, I was totally cautious for years, all my friends have children. I don't have a girlfriend at the moment, I'm in my mid-40's. I don't want to become a father at 60, I can, but I don't want to. They simply look for alternative ways or say that love always lasts two or three years, then it's over. (Quote: Christine Wagner, interview from 26.06.2017 on Deutschlandfunk Kultur)
What forms are there?
The family constellations of co-parenting are very individual. For example, a lesbian couple enters into co-parenthood with a homosexual man, a single woman cooperates with a same-sex couple or a heterosexual couple with an unfulfilled desire to have children enters into co-parenthood with a heterosexual man who only wants to fulfil an "uncle function". How the co-parenthood is to be designed is agreed and decided by the persons involved during the process of getting to know each other.
Appropriate selection of a co-parent
Enough time should be allowed when choosing a co-parent. One's own ideas and expectations should be discussed with the potential co-partners and should be in agreement. The basic educational ideas and values should be the same. This way, fewer conflicts can arise later. The aspect of honesty should be lived by both sides in order to be able to enter into a sustainable co-parenthood. An important aspect is the financial arrangement and contribution of both sides. The handling of agreements and basic issues should also be discussed comprehensively in advance. A "parenting agreement" can be a binding solution.
Regulation of rights and obligations
In order to reduce the potential for conflict, a parenting agreement can be drawn up. The agreement is comparable to a marriage contract and regulates the rights and obligations of the individual persons. At the same time, a contract is a safeguard for the child, e.g. in order to determine future maintenance claims in advance. We recommend involving a lawyer.
The legal aspects are very individual depending on how co-parenting is structured. For example, if 3 people are involved, it must be determined in advance which 2 people should be given custody and whether a permanent power of attorney should be created (e.g. picking up from daycare, visiting doctor's appointments, etc.). Another challenge for lesbian couples can be the adoption of the child. In Germany, the legal situation in the area of family forms is not yet designed for all the possibilities of co-parenting. According to German law, only 2 persons can have custody of a child.
Advantages of co-parenting
One advantage can be the fact that there are usually no disturbing feelings in the co-parenting relationship. The levels are more on a friendly basis than on a partnership basis. This also reduces the potential for conflict. The time of fertilisation can be determined by the couple themselves. During the process of getting to know each other, the desired forms of upbringing and values should have been discussed so that they can later pull together. Since the arrangement of the different constellations is individual, this family form is so interesting for many people. The focus in this form is on the child and another advantage can be the gain of "bonus parents" when several people are involved.
Disadvantages of co-parenting
At first glance, co-parenting can be a suitable solution, but what happens when a new partner or family comes along? The responsibility towards the co-parent(s) and the child remains. This should be thought through well in advance. Arrangements can be made in advance or anchored in an agreement. It is very important that these agreements are adhered to. There should be a certain amount of ability to deal with conflict, so that compromises can be made if necessary. In all respects, the best interests of the child should always be in the foreground and taken into account in all agreements.
This article is a rough summary of the topic of co-parenting. We will cover this topic in more detail with checklists and our P4B check.
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