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!
Going on vacation entails lots of planning: packing luggage, buying plane tickets, making hotel reservations, and confirming rental vehicles. But one thing many people forget to do is plan for the worst. Traveling, especially in foreign destinations, means you’ll likely be at greater risk than usual for illness, injury, and even death. I know, I know, I’m such a downer!
In light of this reality, you must have a legally sound and updated estate plan in place before taking your next trip. If not, your loved ones can face a legal nightmare if something should happen to you while you’re away. The following are 4 critical estate planning tasks to take care of before departing.
1. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date
Some of your most valuable assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, do not transfer via a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person (or persons) you’d like to inherit the asset upon your death. It’s vital you name a primary beneficiary and at least one alternate beneficiary in case the primary dies before you. Moreover, these designations must be regularly reviewed and updated, especially following major life events like marriage, divorce, and having children. The key? YOU CANNOT NAME A MINOR CHILD! Even as a backup. No really. You must have a trust as a backup to receive the payout on behalf of your minor children.
2. Create power of attorney documents
Outside of death, unforeseen illness and injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to make critical decisions about your own well-being. Given this, you must grant someone the legal authority to make those decisions on your behalf through power of attorney. You need two such documents: medical power of attorney and financial durable power of attorney. Medical power of attorney (included in Advance Directives) gives the person of your choice the authority to make your healthcare decisions for you, while durable financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to manage your finances. As with beneficiary designations, these decision makers can change over time, so before you leave for vacation, be sure both documents are up to date.
3. Name guardians for your minor children
If you’re the parent of minor children, your most important planning task is to legally document guardians to care for your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. These are the people whom you trust to care for your children—and potentially raise them to adulthood—if something should happen to you. Given the monumental importance of this decision, I’ve created a comprehensive system called the Guardian Guide™ that covers this entire process and includes the legal documents naming these guardians as well as your family first response plan.
4. Organize your digital assets
If you’re like most people, you probably have dozens of digital accounts like email, social media, cloud storage, and cryptocurrency. If these assets aren’t properly inventoried and accounted for, they’ll likely be lost forever if something happens to you. At minimum, you should write down the location and passwords for each account, and ensure someone you trust knows what to do with these digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity. To make this process easier, consider using a service that stores and organizes your passwords.
Complete your vacation planning now
If you have a vacation planned, be sure to add these 4 items to your to-do list before leaving. And if you need help completing any of these tasks—or would simply like me to double check the plan you have in place—send me a message at email@example.com.
I recommend you complete these tasks at least 8 weeks before you depart. However, if your trip is sooner than that, call and let me know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session, and I’ll do my best to fit you in as soon as possible.
What is a Personal Family Lawyer®? A lawyer who develops trusting relationships with families for life. That’s why Breiner Law Firm offers a Family Wealth Planning Session where I can review your family wealth needs and help identify the best strategies for you and your family. I don’t just draft documents; I ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. While preparing for your Session, you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge. You can begin by scheduling a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.