A co-parenting arrangement is where you parent a child with someone you are not in a relationship with. This may be a child you already have or a child that you plan to have.
You may have previously been in a relationship with the other person and you may choose to set out in writing how you will parent together now that your relationship has ended.
The other person may be somebody you have never been in a relationship with, for example a friend, and you may be embarking on a new parenting relationship together.
It might be that you and/or the other person are in relationships with other people and your intention is that there will be three or four parental figures. In this situation, it is important to understand how legal parental responsibility is granted in the UK and that only two people can be recognised as legal parents.
If you are entering into a co-parenting arrangement you may wish to consider creating a co-parenting agreement. This comprehensive document will set out your agreed intentions for the future and there are various frameworks available. We find that preparing a co-parenting agreement helps our clients identify any mismatch of expectation and can ease the path for everybody involved.
A co-parenting agreement is not a legally binding document. However it can help any disputes be resolved more smoothly.
The agreement will be bespoke to your particular arrangement. Examples of what it might cover include:
- What role each parent will play in the child’s life
- Who the child will live with and where
- What each parent’s financial responsibility is
- Expectations around education
- How much time the parents will spend together with the child
Co-parenting and legal parenthood / parental responsibility
A co-parenting agreement does not grant legal parenthood or parental responsibility. The law can be complex in recognising who is a child’s legal parent. When entering a co-parenting arrangement, it is important you are clear about who the legal parents are as there can only be two. If a person is a legal parent it means they are financially responsible for the child and it can also determine inheritance rights.
In the UK, the person who gives birth is always recognised as a legal parent unless they choose to relinquish their status through adoption or a parental order. The other legal parent will be determined by the status of the parties involved, and where and how conception takes place. It is therefore important to understand the arrangement you are entering into and who will acquire legal parent status.
The second arm of parenthood is parental responsibility. This provides the right to make important decisions about the welfare and day to day upbringing of the child. It is possible to be a legal parent without having parental responsibility and vice versa. If a person is named on the birth certificate, that person will have legal parental responsibility for the child unless they relinquish it.
There is no limit to the number of people who can have parental responsibility. It can be acquired after the birth of the child for those who do not automatically acquire parental status.
If a co-parenting arrangement is being entered into, we advise seeking legal advice. This will ensure that everyone involved will understand to whom legal parenthood will fall in their particular situation and other legal status, such as parental responsibility, is obtained for those who do not have it.
How to manage co parenting disputes post-separation
In this video, our partner in the family team, Clare Webb explains your options for tackling any co-parenting challenge you are facing following the breakdown of your relationship with the other parent.
Contact a co-parenting solicitor
Our co-parenting solicitors have a wealth of experience in helping clients enter into co-parenting arrangements, whatever their circumstance. We can also support you with acquiring parental status if required. Request a consultation with our specialist team or contact us directly on 0800 422 0123.