11 Steps Gay Men Should Take Before Co-Parenting With a Female Friend
Considering entering an "intentional co-parenting" arrangement with a female friend or couple? These are the steps you need to take
Step #1: Find a Co-Parent and Start Planning
First, find a co-parent. As with a romantic partner, one can be found anywhere. We found ours through a monthly prospective parent group. Others we know met through mutual friends, and others already were friends. There are now even match-making websites! Some common ones include: www.coparents.com; www.familybydesign.com/ and modamily.com/. Check out this article about a gay couple who met their co-parents through an online service
Step #2: "Date" Your Co-Parent Before Committing
It's important not to rush into things. You should "date" for a while to get to know each other. And if you're already friends, do not confuse friendship with being compatible co-parents.
Step #3: Have Uncomfortable Conversations
Discuss ALL expectations in advance no matter how uncomfortable: Religion, approach to discipline, legal custody, etc. Even abortion, should there be medical issues for mom or child.
Step #4: Create a Custody Schedule
In addition to the shared custody schedule, be sure to discuss how much time the whole family will spend together.
Step #5: Put it All in Writing
Put everything in writing. Parenting agreements are about more than just legal coverage (in fact, they provide little of it). It is about spelling out all expectations while everyone is calm and rational. You can refer to the agreement if there are disputes, as can legal authorities should it escalate.
Step #6: Be Ready to Call it Off
Bringing a life into the world is serious stuff. One of the advantages to intentional co-parenting is that you can take your time. If there's a strong sense that this parenting arrangement isn't right, then maybe it's not. Once that baby is around you are binding yourself to your co-parent in a profound way and there's no turning back.
Step #7: Take Note of All the Personalities Involved.
Co-parenting might not be for control freaks or those not able to assert themselves. Flexibility and an even temperament are key to long term success.
Step #8: Really Can't Stress the Personality Thing Enough...
Repeating: the personalities have to be compatible. I can't stress this enough. Ideally, the planning process will reveal if that's the case.
Step #9: Hire a Therapist
Get input from a counselor who specializes in shared custody arrangements. They can advise on the best custodial schedule for the children.
Step #10: Hire a Lawyer
Meet with a lawyer experienced with alternative families in your state. There will be a lot of documentation needed, and specific ways to handle certain steps (such as insemination), to ensure maximum legal coverage.
Step #11: Talk to Other Co-Parents
Seek out current co-parents. If possible, meet with the father(s) and mother(s) separately, to get the most candid advice. But also meet with everyone together, to get a first-hand view of the family's dynamics. One useful online resource is Rachel Hope's co-parent matchmaking website: www.partneredparenting.com