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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we’ll discuss the legal aspects of co-parenting, a popular style of child upbringing among millennials. Millennial parents are migrating from a traditional, nuclear family to platonic, non-romantic parental relationships. Team-oriented individuals, departing from conventional gender roles, drive this kind of parenting; many couples today continue to share responsibility for raising children either without ever being married or after a divorce or separation.

Co-parenting, platonic parenting, or shared parenting, refers to an arrangement that involves two or more people who have kids together and continue to parent as a team amicably. These new parenting styles are contributing to the growing number of family representations.

Since the disappearance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s laws disadvantaging children born outside of marriage, policy-makers have struggled to find a way to encourage stable parental relationships for children. While teenage pregnancy has declined, non-marital births are soaring, especially among women in their twenties.

To understand parenting rights, it’s important to understand the two aspects of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. These aspects cover where your children will live and who is in charge of life-changing decisions for and about the children. There’s also sole custody and joint custody. While one parent may have sole physical custody, co-parents usually exercise joint legal custody, meaning both parents have equal say in decision-making. If two parents share both physical and legal custody, the child would move back and forth between the two of them. Many co-parenting couples choose to live under one roof together in order to provide a stable home environment for the children.

Co-Parenting After a Divorce

After a divorce, your parenting rights are clearly spelled out in a divorce agreement, approved by the court. As a parent, you can work with your partner to determine the best arrangement for your children. In cases of conflict, you may consult with a professional mediator. If both parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will impose terms. Creating an effective parenting agreement is critical in your child’s emotional development. The following questions should be addressed, in writing, with specific details:

  • Where will the child live?
  • Where will the child spend holidays and vacations?
  • What visitation rights will the non-custodial parent have?
  • How will financial responsibilities revolving around the child be divided?
  • Who will make decisions about the child’s school, religion and healthcare?
  • How will both parents settle disputes and deal with changing circumstances?

Visitation rights are often the source of co-parenting conflicts after a divorce. Both parents need to stick to the visitation schedule and mutually agree to any changes. Failure to abide by the court-approved parenting agreement can lead to a charge of contempt of court.

Co-Parenting in a Platonic Relationship

Any couples that are considering a platonic parenting arrangement should get the details of the arrangement in writing. The following questions should be addressed, in writing, with specific details:

·    Who will be responsible for contributing to household or child-related expenses?

·    How will future romantic relationships with third parties be handled?

·    How will disagreements regarding the child’s school, religion and healthcare be settled?

While we know parents do not necessarily have to be married or romantically involved to raise a child, co-parenting is still uncharted territory for many families. If you are thinking about co-parenting with your ex, or even a close friend, make sure your parental rights are formally outlined and enforced by a court.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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