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Platonic Co-Parenting is when two individuals decide to raise a child without being romantically involved. One of their reasons for platonic pregnancy is that many individuals don’t have a partner and/or don’t feel financially secure enough to have a baby on their own.
Websites such as Co-Parents.co.uk, Co-ParentMatch.com and PollenTree.com specialise in introducing couples who can’t or haven’t had the opportunity of conceiving naturally or have chosen not to conceive naturally, due to sexual orientation. The various websites now have thousands of members who are looking for a platonic relationship with someone who can mother/father their child.
You may have seen the BBC documentary, Pregnant and Platonic. The one-off episode (broadcast in June 2019) followed several couples who were either co-parenting or wanted to co-parent, without being in a romantic relationship.
Some of the couples had found each other on co-parenting websites and were using DIY insemination to try and get pregnant. The platform is a little like a dating website, whereby members upload their profile, sometimes including a picture, and some information about themselves.
The websites also cater to those women who want a sperm donor rather than an involved “co-parent”. Unlike obtaining donor sperm via a fertility clinic, the woman would get to meet the donor in advance as there would be no constraints as to anonymity. This approach is becoming more common as women are putting their careers before marriage and starting a family. If they feel the pressure of their body clock but have not yet met a partner, finding a donor on a co-parenting website may look like an attractive option.
There is a degree of scepticism and criticism surrounding such arrangements. Harry Benson, the research director at the Marriage Foundation said it is “spectacularly selfish to time-share a child like some designer appendage”.
There are several legal implications to consider, and it is concerning that many individuals do not take legal advice in advance or before conception. For example, whether a male is treated as the father of a child may depend on whether the couple underwent artificial insemination at a licenced fertility clinic, and in particular, whether the couple followed certain steps in signing parentage forms or not. Clearly, the intentions of both parties needs to be discussed at the outset so that they are both aware as to whether the father wishes to be classed as a legal father, with all of the parental rights and responsibilities that come with that.
By contrast, if the insemination takes place at home, for example, by using a home insemination kit, both parents would have equal parental rights, despite their intentions. Some of the websites actually offer to provide a home insemination kit as part of the service. Therefore, the single woman who wants to start a single parenting family may end up in a situation where the father seeks to exercise his legal parenting rights at a later stage, which she did not anticipate.
If the couple cannot agree on matters such as how much time the child will spend with each parent, the arrangements for schooling, religious upbringing or special occasions, there is potential for many disputes during the child’s minority. This could result in costly and lengthy litigation between the parents, leaving the disputed issues in the hands of the court. It is therefore highly important for anyone considering using the co-parenting websites or using artificial or home insemination as a method of conception to seek legal advice at the earliest possible stage, to limit the potential for disputes in the future.
It is not just practical and living arrangements that are often the source of a dispute between co-parents. There are also financial implications, as the non-resident parent may be expected to pay child maintenance. In most cases, an assessment can be made by the Child Maintenance Service if matters cannot be agreed between the parents. In other cases, particularly where the non-resident parent is wealthy and has income over £156,000 gross per annum, an application for “top up” maintenance can be made under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. This is likely to be a much higher amount than the Child Maintenance Service calculation.
In addition, court applications can be made by the parent who lives with the child pursuant to Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for an extensive range of financial orders including:-
These complex and potentially very expensive issues highlight the need for legal advice before entering into a co-parenting arrangement.