On one of our co-parenting family vacations in St. Augustine, FL
Ok, we’re going to get really forward thinking here this week! With societal attitudes about love, marriage, and parenting constantly evolving, our perception of what constitutes “family” is becoming more and more flexible. As family structures become more varied, we’re learning that when it comes to raising children, the marital status, gender, and even relationship status of the parents matters less and less to society. I, personally, am so happy to see this trend but we still have a long way to go.
One new child-rearing trend that highlights this notion is platonic parenting. Also known as co-parenting, platonic parenting involves two or more people who agree to raise children together without a romantic connection. And we are discovering this nontraditional style of parenting can produce children who are just as well adjusted as those raised in a happily married household.
What children need most are parents who are committed to loving and supporting them - of course we know this. Whether or not the parents have a romantic relationship with one another is immaterial to their ability to raise healthy and happy kids, so long as their co-parenting relationship is solid. This can look like so many different things. This can be two biological parents that are no longer romantically involved, it can be a family where there are more than two co-parents romantically involved, or it can look like conscious, platonic co-parenting by more than one set of parents, like we do in our family.
For me and my family personally, we know it takes a village and we have created our own. We have benefited greatly from platonic co-parenting with our best friends and their kids. Some of my favorite clients have been families that have these unique parenting styles because I get to enjoy the creativity that comes with creating estate plans for these unique situations. I also find these are often times some of the the happiest parents I work with because they have this additional emotional and organizational support from multiple adults splitting the workload.
An Alternative Arrangement
Platonic parenting was pioneered within the LGBTQ community, where until recently same-gender couples couldn’t legally marry and didn’t have the court system to make up rules for them about post-breakup parenting. Following a romantic split, these families were forced to create innovative, outside-the-box parenting arrangements on their own.
More recently, platonic parenting has spread to married couples looking to more effectively raise their children following divorce. By maintaining an amicable and cooperative relationship—sometimes even cohabitating—a couple whose romantic connection has dissolved can not only spare their children the trauma of divorce, but they may also find the arrangement is much healthier for them. Indeed, couples who stay unhappily married for the children’s sake often find the arrangement can be even more harmful to the whole family than a clean divorce.
And now, more and more people are choosing to raise children together using platonic parenting, without ever having a romantic relationship to begin with, or where there is a third or fourth adult in the relationship. Indeed, with today’s legal structures, people of all genders and sexual orientation are entering into a variety of platonic parenting relationships, putting a new spin on the notion of a blended family.
While platonic parenting might seem highly atypical and even controversial, given all of the work that goes into loving and raising children, it only makes sense that some would want to make parenting a team effort. Platonic parenting is particularly enticing for those who find themselves moving through their prime child-rearing years in the absence of a romantic relationship. Did you know there are even “matchmaking” sites specifically to find platonic co-parents now?? How interesting is that?!
Just like any parenting arrangement, platonic parenting requires massive levels of trust, communication, and planning. The first step of the new partnership is for all parties to come up with a solid legal agreement governing the financial commitments and living situation. Other issues to work out include how to handle new romantic relationships, if/how to incorporate platonic partners into family gatherings, along with all sorts of other basic ground rules. You’ll also need to talk about how to discuss the arrangement with any existing children and other family members, so everyone understands exactly what this new life will entail. This is, of course, if there is a shared custody or guardianship of the children, whether or not there is a marriage involved in the dynamic.
In the alternative, our family co-parents with another family that also has two children. We do not share any legal custody of each other’s children and we live in separate homes very close to each other. We carry the burden for each other of scheduling for the kids, doctor’s appointments, and feeding the family as a whole. This often looks like one mom taking all the kids to the dentist at once while the other mom is at home cooking dinner for everyone. It is truly amazing!
Creating a Legal Foundation
With so many important agreements to be made, those seeking to create a platonic parenting arrangement should seek legal counsel at the outset of the relationship. I love to help families navigate these types of non-traditional partnerships, and I offer a wide array of estate planning tools to help define the legal rights and responsibilities of each individual involved.
If you choose a more informal relationship like our family’s then we address the guardianship choices you have - to make sure your co-parenting adults are included in whatever capacity you choose. We use both your will and Guardian Guide to document what role you would want the non-biological or adoptive co-parents to take if you were gone. If you would want a family member to be the guardian for your children if you are gone, but don’t want to exclude your platonic or non-platonic co-parents in your children’s lives, we have legal documentation to address that!
Whether you’re seeking advice on planning a platonic parenting relationship, or you need me to draft legally binding co-parenting agreements, or even just to get your own estate plan going, you know you can always schedule a consult to discuss the options and schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session to go over options for creating the proper legal foundation for your family.
Here’s to a new year and an organized you! I also want to share my gratitude for all of you. You make my practice possible and I am wishing you a happy and productive month!