The Daddy Issue
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3. The Wish & The Fathers


This week's episode explores co-parenting from the point of view of a heterosexual woman who co-parents two children with a gay couple.

If you aren't familiar with the term co-parenting, it's when two parties raise a child together, while retaining relatively independent and separate lives. If you do know what co-parenting is, chances are you know it from its more common form, raising children after having a divorce. The difference here is, is that the families we are talking to intended to co-parent from day one.

The Wish & The Fathers book cover

This weeks guest Sara Coster (She/Her) is a LGBT parenting expert, who literally wrote the book on co-parenting too.

This means that the co-parenting agreement heterosexual couples create while negotiating a divorce is oftentimes written before the child is even conceived, and instead of potentially weighing the wants of the parents over the child intended co-parenting puts the child first. Such agreements cover everything from time splitting (how often the child stays with each parent/set of parents) and what would happen if one parent wanted to move abroad. As most intended co-parenting relationships are between parents/sets of parents who aren't romantically involved it's common and recommended that the co-parenting agreement even contains methods of resolving conflict.

In the Netherlands co-parenting agreements always involve two parents. It's not a legal construction created specifically for non-traditional families, but a "loophole" in family law that has been ingeniously seizing by queer people to forge families of their own in a legal way. This does mean that they're some current limitations to co-parenting in The Netherlands: a child can only have two parents, a mother + a recognised parent. This means, in a co-parenting relationship between more than two parents, only two of the parents are legal parents of the child. To compensate for this, when co-parents have more than one child, parents often swap guardianship roles. For example, Sara has two children - both children share the same fathers, but legally one father is the "official father" of one child. The same can also be applied to 4 parent co-parenting structures where for example a lesbian couple shares their children with a gay couple.

There is a recommendation to increase the number of legal parents of a child to four, but as of yet the government are yet to be taking any steps to make this into law.

In terms of conception, there's of course, home, artificial, and IVF as ways of insemination however what fertility treatments you have access to will very much depend on the healthcare system in your country. In The Netherlands, fertility treatment is generally reserved for people who are having fertility issues. This means the majority of co-parents use home insemination.

What is home insemination? Well, it's not sex. Generally speaking, home insemination or at-home insemination is when an insemination kit is used at home to achieve a pregnancy. It's not an option exclusive to co-parenting couples. Same-sex couples who both have uteruses may use home insemination with a sperm donor to achieve pregnancy for example. Some people may prefer the ability to do it at home, in a more intimate non-medical environment with questions on their gender expression or sexuality more comfortable than in a clinic. In essence: the method of insemination used is up to the intended mother, and what options they have will be heavily influenced by where they live in the world.

For Sara, co-parenting has enabled her to achieve her life dream of having children as well as that of the fathers she co-parents with. They do things together of course: they are a family, but they're clear boundaries and both sides of the agreement get some me time. For Sara, that means having some peace and quiet to get work done - for the fathers that could mean a weekend away to escape the busy streets of Amsterdam.

Growing up with three parents, Sara's children can't compare their upbringing to a family with two parents. In fact, Sara recalled her kids being confused when their school friends were picked up by only one Daddy.

The route to co-parenting isn't easy. We of course recommend before you do anything you speak to a family lawyer in your home country to see exactly what the legal possibilities are. Sara, explains in greater detail in today's show what it is you need to do to find the perfect co-parenting match, so if you're curious to learn more we recommend you listen to the show.

Remember, whatever options you are looking into regarding parenthood, seek legal advice and appropriate professional counseling/guidance.

Sara Coster's book the Wish & The Fathers can be found in Dutch online, or via her website - its dutch title is De Wens & De Vaders. An English translation is in the pipeline, we'll be sure to let you know as soon as that is available.

Trigger Warning: This weeks episode discusses the subject of miscarriage. If you are struggling with this issue please seek professional help. We’ve included some links below which may assist you in this.