If you and a partner or ex-partner want to agree to collectively raise a child, there are several options. Though the only way to completely legally grant “parenthood” to a non-biological parent is through second-parent adoption, not all states permit this--especially in the case of same-sex or queer couples. For these couples, their only option is through a co-parenting agreement.
What Is a Co-Parenting Agreement?
A Co-Parenting agreement is an agreement between two consenting adults regarding the collective raising of one of the parent’s biological or adopted child. This sort of parenting contract outlines the goals and rules regarding how the two will contribute to child care. There are a number of things which can be stipulated in this parenting plan such as:
- Dating rules
- Diet and Nutrition
- Electronics Usage
- Custody Agreement, in the case of a separation
It can also outline things for divorced parents or parents who may not share a home or finances such as:
- Child Support
- Parenting time
- Health Care
- Holidays or school breaks
When parents agree on a co-parenting contract, it allows them to clearly define how their parenting relationship will work. Successful co-parenting depends on proper communication, as well as trust and honesty on the part of each party. Making sure you clearly define the expectations of the relationship helps guide the parenting and also makes sure that the child is raised in a cooperative, structured environment.
Although a co-parenting contract agreement does not carry quite the same weight as second-parent adoption, it still offers an option for those with unconventional relationships who want to cooperate in raising a child. It also gives the co-parent certain important legal rights, such as the right to consent to medical care for the child.
Who Should Consider a Co-Parenting Agreement?
For biological parents of a child, both are immediately regarded as parents under the law. However, for anything outside of a relationship of a single mother and father, it is often the case that only one parent holds legal parenting rights over the children.
In these cases, the best option would be to pursue a second-parent adoption, under which the single parent grants their partner (or a desired co-parent) legal parenthood over their children. This allows the parent to give their partner rights in raising the children without actually sacrificing any of their own rights. However, many states do not allow these agreements or may limit them based on the nature of your relationship. So there are a number of parenting relationships that may require a co-parenting legal agreement.
Many states simply do not allow second-parent adoptions and if they do, they may restrict them for LGBTQ+ relationships. If you are a queer, gay, or lesbian couple, a co-parenting agreement offers you a way to agree on how you wish to raise your child, as well as legal rights to whichever parent is not biologically related.
Separated or Divorced Step-Parents
If you were a step-parent to a previous partner’s children and have since been divorced, you are legally unrelated to them. For step-parents who held a significant part in raising the children, or to whom the children hold a special bond, a co-parenting agreement allows you to remain a part of their lives. This can also allow you to relieve some of the responsibilities of your ex-partner and help provide for the children.
Gay and Lesbian Couples and their Donor
Though this may sound peculiar to some, it is not uncommon for same-sex couples to want the sperm or egg donor to participate in the raising of their child. Whether you seek to gain a motherly/fatherly influence on the child or to simply allow the biological parent to spend time with them, co-parenting agreements let you bring in the other adult.
As relationships and marriages are beginning later and later in people’s lives, the age at which you can safely have a child remains the same. If you are looking to have a child but either don’t want a long-term romantic relationship or don’t think you have enough time, platonic co-parenting can allow you support in raising your child. They can also bring another parenting figure in the child’s life without you needing to engage in a romantic relationship.
How Can I Create a Co-Parenting Agreement?
Before you begin to pursue a co-parenting agreement, make sure that it is right for you and please review your state guidelines to see if a second-parent adoption is possible. Once you have decided it is right for you, you can either create your own, or find a co-parenting agreement template online. We created a co-parenting template just for you below:
*This is for educational purposes only and a real agreement should always be drafted by a family attorney.