Children With Strangers-Is This A Good Idea?

Should two people who are physically, emotionally and economically uninvolved biologically parent and raise children together?   Abbey Ellin explores this very issue in her New York Times article Making a Child, Minus the Couple.

In her article, Ellin explores the “new breed of online daters, looking not for love but rather a partner with whom to build a decidedly non-nuclear family.”   Specifically,  these individuals are using social networking web sites, like PollenTree.comCoparents.comCo-ParentMatch.com, and and MyAlternativeFamily.com,  to have children in a way that is an “alternative to surrogacy, adoption or simple sperm donation.”

This new breed of social networking brings together two relative strangers, each wanting a child to co-parent. Unlike the situation where a decision is made to have a child resulting from an accidental pregnancy, this new “dynamic” is solely premised on creating and raising a child, seemingly without the trappings of a relationship.

The perils seem obvious.  Unlike a sperm donation, co-parenting a child binds and forever intertwines the parties’ lives together.  The impact of having a child is far reaching and may not seem readily apparent to the prospective parents.

For instance, an oft litigated issue in two household families involves relocation.  Suppose one of the co-parents wanted to move with the child from New York cross-country, the other parent could, potentially, prevent the re-location if the move was not found to be in the best interest of the child.   This could, in effect, prevent the parent seeking to move from accepting a prospective job or promotion, moving in with a spouse or moving simply to be near other family members.

Put aside the relocation issue, other custody issues need be addressed; what will access schedule to the child be?  How will decisions regarding the child’s health, education and religion be made?

The issues could become even more unwieldy if one of the parents has additional children from this untraditional arrangement or if the child has special needs.

Then, there are the economic issues.  How will the child be economically supported?  In New York, for instance, the “non-custodial parent” is required to pay child support, which is a based on a guideline percent of the parties’ incomes, together with additional sums for child care, unreimbursed medical expenses, extra-curricular activities, private school, college etc.  Will these guidelines be applicable? Will life insurance be required to secure the child’s financial future if one of the parents dies?   Who will get to take the child as a deduction on income tax returns?

While many married couples fail to consider all these issues before having children, the children are not the product of strangers.  There is or, at some point, was a “commonality” or some unifying bond between parents.   Most couples do not wed and have children with the expressed expectation of living separate lives.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Daniel You are right, there are a lot of issues to discuss and agree upon. However, we find that people go into this knowing what needs to be done and agreeing (in great detail) all the practical matters. We always recommend co-parenting agreements, drafted by a lawyer. Co-parenting is probably here to stay; so we expect case law will readily catch up with social changes. It always has in the past, this is just another change. But the law and lawyers can definitely help in navigating these changes.
  2. With a co-parenting agreement, most of my concerns can be addressed. Obviously, an agreement written at the time of conception or birth, cannot deal with every eventuality. My concern is that because the parents are "relative" strangers, future problems could be difficult to resolve, although, i suppose, no more difficult than litigants in a contested divorce. Thanks for your comment.

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