Co-Parenting - 2339007resize

I’m 36, single and always wanted to have kids. I have a good job and am more than ready to be a mom. The hitch is that the guy who I want to have kids with is an old childhood friend. He’s like a brother to me and our relationship is 100% platonic. He’s desperate to become a dad and would make a wonderful father. Am I crazy to be considering this arrangement? Would this be fair to a child? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Written by our mental health expert, Emily Koert, Ph.D., Registered Clinical Counsellor.

A growing number of men and women are deciding to co-parent, or raise a child together outside of a romantic relationship, so you’re certainly not “crazy” to be considering this option. Those who decide to co-parent believe that a child benefits by having two parents. The advantage of this option is that you don’t have to parent on your own, and you can share the responsibilities with someone whom you have a close friendship and that you respect.

Before entering into this type of parenting arrangement, I’d strongly recommend having a candid and honest conversation with your friend about the possibility of co-parenting and your preferences and expectations regarding your roles, responsibilities, and boundaries. If this arrangement is going to work for you both, and for your child, it is critical that you agree on several fundamental issues. For example, will the parenting responsibilities be a 50/50 split or will one of you have more parenting responsibilities? What responsibility will each of your have for the financial needs of the child? What will your living arrangements be? Will you live together or will your child spend time in each household?

Perhaps even more critical are your respective beliefs and values regarding how a child should be raised. What are your beliefs about discipline, potty training, breast feeding, schooling, etc.? Are your approaches to parenting compatible? Who will make the decisions regarding the child’s education and health and how will you deal with differences of opinion on these critical issues as your child grows up?  It will also be important to discuss some of the additional “what-ifs” or issues that you may not have considered – like what if one of you eventually finds and settles down with a new partner, or gets a job transfer to a new city? There is also the issue of extended family. What will each of you tell your family about your co-parenting arrangement and how will you deal with potentially negative reactions from family members or close friends? I’d highly recommend that you talk all these issues through with a counsellor, to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

If it seems that you are in agreement, it will be important to consult with a lawyer about the legal implications of co-parenting. A lawyer can help you to draft a legal agreement that clearly outlines your parenting and financial responsibilities to the child, along with the details of the child’s custody and living arrangements. This agreement formalizes your intentions and commitments, and may be helpful to reduce the likelihood of any problems or disagreements in the future.

It is important to recognize that the dynamics between co-parents can change, especially after the child is born. When there is a child in the picture, your lives will both change in ways you likely couldn’t have imagined. So while spending time to talk through the issues and details with your potential co-parent is important, it’s also necessary to maintain a certain degree of flexibility in recognizing that some of the dynamics in your co-parenting relationship will inevitably change over time. Keeping the lines of communication open and remaining committed to what’s best for your child will ensure that you’re able to navigate this family-building option successfully.

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