The Three-Parent Family

In this blog post I talk about the issues arising when a child has more than two social parents.

Some prospective lesbian mothers feel that they want their future child to have a father the child knows and who can be a male role model in the child’s life. A man may want to have a child and (especially if he is gay) may not be able to have children easily or naturally. It is of course not necessary to have sexual intercourse and self-insemination kits are commercially available.

Of course, you will need to choose each other carefully because you will need to be able to work together for the next 19 years at least. You need to ensure that you have similar expectations about the future of the child, your respective involvement, your financial contributions and so on. You are in a way creating a situation similar to that of separated or divorced parents, which is often not easy. The difference is of course that you have not been in a relationship and that you are planning the child as friends.

It helps to discuss all issues before you finally agree to go ahead. If one or both of you have partners, you will of course involve your partners too because the child will also be parented by them. You can write down notes and later type them up in a concise way to confirm what you agreed in areas such as:

  • Will the child have one main home or two homes?
  • Do you want to create a family-type relationship with the other parent or parallel parenting relationship similar to that of separated couples?
  • How much time will the child spend with each parent, as a baby, toddler and later on?
  • Do your parenting values match? Will the child be brought up in a particular faith or tradition? Will it be baptised or (if a boy) circumcised?
  • How will you agree on a name? Which surname will the child have?
  • How will you present your arrangement to others?
  • How much will one of you pay the other for the child’s upbringing, if anything?
  • Should the father have legal parental responsibility?
  • Should your respective partners have parental responsibility?
  • What will you do if you do not agree or when circumstances change? You could agree to go to mediation first of all.
  • Do you want to make wills or change your wills to provide for the child, or take out life insurance, or change your letter of wishes to your pension provider? You should contact a solicitor specialising on wills to make a will.
  • Do you want to appoint the other and/or your partners as guardians? You should talk to a solicitor about guardianship appointments. They can be made in a will or separately.
  • What happens if one of you meets a (new) partner?
  • What happens if one of you wants to move somewhere else in England or move abroad?
  • Will you have more than one child together?

Circumstances and the child’s need change over time and it is impossible to agree on everything in advance. Nevertheless, you should be confident that you have similar views and ambitions and it will help to put something in writing to remind yourself of what you agreed at the time. If you were to disagree, the general law about parents and children would apply, although the court would look at the background and any agreement you recorded.

We can help you with drawing up a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding, which will have great evidential weight. It will probably be necessary for there to be at least two solicitors involved as there are potential conflict of interests. Please contact us to discuss your needs further.

If the biological father is legally not the father (check this here), he may be able to apply to the court for contact if he has had contact with the child regularly in the past and the child has formed a bond with him. He would be in a similar situation as a godfather or grandparent.

If the father is legally the father the legal situation may not be very different from one where you had been in a (short) relationship and then separated.

  • Residence and contact would be decided under the welfare principle to see what is best for the child at the time when the court needs to decide on a dispute.
  • The parent who gets the child benefit can apply for child maintenance to the Child Maintenance Service.
  • The parent the child lives with can also apply for further financial provision to the court. The provision will depend on the circumstances at that time.

Maybe the father wants more involvement with the child than the mother wants him to have. Unless you fall into the provisions where the biological father will not legally be the child’s parent, you should consider carefully whether you want to go into a co-parenting arrangement. If you are the man and you do not want to pay maintenance or if you are the woman and you do not want the child to spend time with the biological father, or you want to be in control of the contact time as much as possible, you should consider choosing a different path to parenthood.

Talk to others who are co-parenting and find out about the problems they have encountered and the solutions they have found.

Our support page has a wealth of resources for parents to help them to parent together successfully, nurturing their child.


18 May 2016 by Andrea Woelke