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The Legal Reality of Conscious Co-Parenting

When two people co-parent a child, it’s usually because at some point they were either married or dating.

And of course, there are many other ways to become a parent:

✔ Use a surrogate to carry the child to term

✔ Adopt a child in the foster system

✔ Use In Vitro Fertilization with a partner or sperm donor

But wait for it…here’s the curveball.

What about choosing to have a child with a platonic friend?

Yes. On purpose.

It’s called conscious co-parenting. That’s what CNN political commentator, Van Jones, decided to do with his long-time female friend.

If you haven’t heard of Van Jones, here’s a little background:

Jones has been previously married and had two children from that relationship. They divorced in 2019 after 13 years of marriage.

But like many of us, in 2020, he had an epiphany. He decided he wanted another child.

With the recent end of his marriage, this was unlikely to happen with his ex-wife. However, he soon discovered a close female friend wanted another child too. So they decided to “join forces” and have a child together.

It’s not clear if the child was conceived biologically or scientifically, but we do know that the child was born in February and he is enjoying this new bundle of joy.

Now, you may be wondering, “How does a situation like this work legally?

That’s a great question.

While I can’t speak specifically to this situation, I can answer some hypothetical questions as to how it could play out in the state of New Jersey.

If the parents don’t live together, who will have custody of the child?

The reality is that in most cases, especially concerning a newborn, moms get custody by default. I agree, it’s not always fair but it’s, unfortunately, the reality. But I want to be clear, I’m talking about residential custody, which means which parent the child lives with. That is entirely separate from parenting time (aka visitation). If the parties cannot agree on who will have residential custody, either party can file a motion with the Court and after considering the best interest of the child factors, the Court will enter a custody order that the Judge believes is in the child’s best interest. This of course assumes the parties cannot agree otherwise.

How would child support be established?

Child support is calculated pursuant to the child support guidelines. It’s a computer program that calculates support based upon the information entered into the system. For instance, it considers the income of both parties, the number of overnights each party has with the child, other deductions (i.e. pension dues, mandatory retirement contributions, health insurance premiums for the child, child support paid for other children, and a number of other deductions). After that information is entered, the program calculates a number and that is what the Court will determine is an appropriate amount of support unless the parties agree otherwise.

If one parent marries, will the new spouse have parental rights?

No, the new spouse doesn’t have any rights to your children. Having a relationship with the child does not confer any legal rights.

What if the parents do not agree on how the child will be raised in areas like discipline, faith, health, and education?

If the parties cannot agree on these things, either party may file a motion with the Court and the Judge will make the decision. But be forewarned, many times, the Court defaults to the parent with residential custody.

In the example above with Van Jones, they most likely thought through these legal consequences before deciding to have a baby together so they probably already have an agreement regarding custody, child support as well as agreements regarding discipline, faith, health, and education of their child.

While you may not have purposely had a child with a platonic friend, you may be attempting to co-parent with an ex-partner.

If you are having trouble navigating this journey, I want to invite you to sign up for a legal consultation, here.

The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff.


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