Should Co-Parents Be Legally Recognized?

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I was talking with one of my clients the other day. She told me her 17-year-old son had accidentally gotten a girl pregnant through failed birth control. He made it clear that, as a senior in high school, he was in no position to be a father. He didn’t have the education. He didn’t have the life experience. He didn’t have the money. The girl  chose not to terminate the pregnancy and will be carrying the child to term this year. She will be bringing a child into the world against the biological father’s wishes. This is, to be delicate, not the ideal way to start a family. And yet 50% of all children born to Americans under the age of 30 are born out of wedlock.  

I’ve written about this before and I’m not going to relitigate it here, but instead,  use it as a jumping off point for this article by Laurie Shrage in Aeon. Shrage discusses the changing dynamics of parenthood and how we have to make legal adjustments for it.

While I don’t believe that having children out of wedlock is, in general, a wise decision (and have the backing of all of social science on that one), it’s still going to happen frequently. Given that, what should we do as a society to support these  parents who lack the legal structure that society accords to married couples?

Offers Schrage:

“When people become parents, they might not be able to anticipate all the ways in which their interests could be interfered with or undermined. Particularly after a break-up, parents often use tactics that they might admit are unfair, and would be incensed if used against them. But when access to their kids and involvement in their lives is at stake, moral consideration for the other parent is not a priority, even for otherwise decent people. Among my friends, and friends of friends, I have seen one parent use a partner’s lack of US citizenship as a bargaining chip to gain access to the children. Another took advantage of the circumstance that her same-gender co-parent had not obtained legal parent status. Yet another elected to move residence far away from the other parent, which made shared arrangements impractical. Many of us know similar stories.”

Make smart choices in love, minimize divorce and out-of-wedlock-children, and only procreate with sane, rational, responsible partners. You may not be able to predict your future, but you can certainly minimize your own risk.

Schrage makes an important point. We always hear about deadbeat dads. No doubt there are many of them and they should be prosecuted according to the law. But let’s not ignore the legal loopholes that women often exploit to hurt the biological father. I may be a coach for women, but my heart bleeds for any father who has his parental rights taken away due to an irreconcilable relationship with his ex.

Continues Shrage: “Because marriage generally does not cover the terms of shared childrearing, public co-parenting contracts would offer a social insurance scheme for both ‘traditional’ and non-traditional families. An official contract would help to safeguard parents’ basic entitlements, such as the right to be involved in the lives of one’s children and to appropriate forms of child support from each co-parent. If and when cooperation among the co-parents breaks down, the existence of an agreement can guide courts or mediators in negotiating new agreements for shared parental responsibility.”

Hey, if half of Americans want to separate parenthood from marriage, it’s their right. But for the good of society, we need to be a little more far-sighted because there are repercussions to both parents and children when alimony/custody battles rage on.

“In short, one’s rights as a parent, and the relationship with one’s children, shouldn’t be contingent on the ups and downs of one’s love life.”

All the more reason to make smart choices in love, minimize divorce and out-of-wedlock-children, and only procreate with sane, rational, responsible partners. You may not be able to predict your future, but you can certainly minimize your own risk.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Marie

    Gah! What happened to this thread??   My two cents:

    1) Abortion is going to be outlawed outright or made highly inaccessible soon, already happened in a lot of states.   Hope those who are pointing it out as a viable option are out there demonstrating against its restrictions?

    2) This will be followed closely be decreased affordable access to birth control, already happening.

    3) Combined with abstinence only sex education in our schools so our kids won’t have the foggiest idea how to even use birth control.

    So congratulations future fathers of America!   Whether you wanted to or not, keep the baby or give up for adoption, our government will make sure you have every opportunity to bring more life into the world!

  2. 22
    Selena

    Tom 10 said: “That said, I’m not actually against the direct approach per-se, I just think it needs some nuance in practice. A balancing act between assertive enough to bring success, yet guarded enough to handle the rejection.

      Can you see now why men don’t often say straight up that they’re just looking to hook-up?”

    Ha, I can!

    Many years ago I guy I worked with made a comment about how long it had been since he’d had sex. I ignored it. The next week he made a   comment that he was so horny he was about to shake out of his shoes.?Would I be willing to help him out?

    Ugh No. He was a nice looking guy, but he was a co-worker for one thing, and the TOTAL lack of finesse, nuance of any kind was off-putting all by itself. How often does a direct, crude approach work with women? Seriously.

    Being friendly, flirty, and saying “I’m not looking for anything serious right now” is usually enough “code” for a woman looking for a fling.

     

    1. 22.1
      Emily, the original

      Selena,

      How often does a direct, crude approach work with women? Seriously.

      It can work with me, depending on how it’s done, but I have to be attracted to the man, which is of course completely out of his control.

      Many years ago I guy I worked with made a comment about how long it had been since he’d had sex. I ignored it. The next week he made a   comment that he was so horny he was about to shake out of his shoes.?Would I be willing to help him out?

      The first comment, IMO, wasn’t direct. That was a testing of the waters to see how you would respond. The fact that you didn’t respond should have given him your answer. The second comment was just poorly executed. There has to be at least a preliminary atmosphere of mutual attraction and flirtation established. Since you didn’t respond to the first comment … I’m sure it felt weird.

    2. 22.2
      Tom10

      Hey Selena.
      “The next week he made a   comment that he was so horny he was about to shake out of his shoes.?Would I be willing to help him out?”
        
      Haha. How kind of him to share such info. And with such a polite request how could you possibly  say no?!
        
      “Being friendly, flirty, and saying “I’m not looking for anything serious right now” is usually enough “code” for a woman looking for a fling.”
        
      Right. This is exactly how to get a fling.
       

  3. 23
    Selena

    @Emily

    You wrote: “There has to be at least a preliminary atmosphere of mutual attraction and flirtation established.”

    Selena:  “How often does a direct, crude approach work with women? Seriously.

    Emily:It can work with me, depending on how it’s done, but I have to be attracted to the man, which is of course completely out of his control.”

    Okay. So in sum, you are cool with a man making a direct, crude-ish proposition to you as long as you are attracted to him, and you have  established you have a mutual attraction via  flirtation.

    So “hey babe, wanna fuck?” doesn’t work for you?

    I think you are making Tom 10’s point Emily.

     

    1. 23.1
      Emily, the original

      Selena,

      This worked for me:

      Him: “Do you have a boyfriend?”

      Me: “I did, but he moved away, and I’m tired of moping around about something that’s not going to happen.”

      Him: “Why do you come over here and moan for something that will?”

      It was obvious the attraction was mutual. We had met a couple of days earlier. He said this to me over the phone. I was ostensibly calling for his roommate, but he figured out pretty quickly I was really calling for him. I suppose it may sometimes be difficult to determine if the attraction is mutual. Nobody bats 1000, but if nobody bats, nothing happens.

  4. 24
    KK

    Shaukat said, “You seem to think that the default assumption when dating should be that each party is looking for an LTR unless otherwise stated. I don’t think that should be assumed”.

    Of course there is no default assumption. I’ve never stated that. If anything, women assume a man’s default position is most likely NSA sex until he shows us otherwise. Likewise, men should assume the opposite is most likely. If a man with integrity wants to be sure he doesn’t lead a woman on unnecessarily, it would behoove him to have that discussion. Women already know how most men operate. Therefore, if we’re in relationship mode, we take our time deciding if someone is LTR potential. If there’s a possibility they are, we wait on the sex part until there’s a commitment.

    The example you gave earlier about meeting a rando in a bar and asking her back to your place for drinks is not the equivalent of dating. Obviously it wouldn’t be necessary to tell her your not interested in a relationship.

    As to the other point about FZ, maybe what you stated is somewhat common. From what I’ve seen and experienced, clearly telling a guy you’re not interested in anything other than friendship is more common.

    1. 24.1
      Tom10

      @ KK #24
      “If a man with integrity wants to be sure he doesn’t lead a woman on unnecessarily, it would behoove him to have that discussion. Women already know how most men operate.”
        
      If women already know that men only want NSA sex unless otherwise stated, why does it behove men to have a discussion telling her what she already knows to retain his integrity?
        
      Does the opposite hold true; does it behove women to have a discussion she wants a relationship to retain her integrity?
        
      I dunno. I think in real life dating there is a gray zone where both parties are trying to fulfil their own needs whilst simultaneously trying to assess the other party’s intentions.
        
      So this situation has nothing to do with integrity, it’s about the dating skill: neither party wants to show their hand before seeing the other’s.
        
      Implying that guys who don’t state that they want just sex have no integrity is just poor game.

    2. 24.2
      Shaukat

      Agree Tom. KK, dating is a messy process. You have strong opinions as to how “men with integrity” should conduct themselves, while men’s complaints about certain aspects of the game are dismissed as whining or not in tune with reality   (the courting threads). Again, if you’re unsure of where you stand, it’s up to you to vocalize your concerns. You have to take some risk as well.

      1. 24.2.1
        KK

        Shaukat,

        I think everyone should date with integrity. It is a two way street, after all. I’m not sure which courting threads you’re referring to where I’ve dismissed men’s complaints.

        For me, personally, it’s not an issue because I’ve always been honest and upfront with where I stand. I expect the same respect in return. If that respect / honesty isn’t reciprocated, it’s a pretty simple solution. I agree with what Evan advocates in his sexclusivity post.

  5. 25
    Selena

    Tom 10: “I dunno. I think in real life dating there is a gray zone where both parties are trying to fulfil their own needs whilst simultaneously trying to assess the other party’s intentions.”neither party wants to show their hand before seeing the other’s.”

    I can’t speak for men, but I feel women are told/socialized to “play it cool”. That asking a guy about his intentions too soon will scare him away. He might perceive her as needy/clingy/ wanting to get serious immediately. They don’t bring up monogamy, they tacitly go along with the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy and as a result sometimes find themselves in a casual sex situation instead of having the *real* boyfriend they wanted.   Been there.

    If  either person  were to ask “What are you looking for?” type questions in a light, matter-of-fact way fairly early it might save some misunderstandings and bad feelings down the line.

     

  6. 26
    Noel Peterson

    I had my children out of wedlock. Their father took primary custody even though he is a felon and put them in harms way in the first place because he lived in the same state as his mother who had custody when we split up while I was getting situated. If I would have had anything to have had something  set up to protect my children’s rights and how the custody would be split before hand, it would have saved 6 years of fighting for my children back in my life. I wish I would have had anything besides the “I’m sorry’s” I received while trying to legally prove they should be with me at least half the time. The government does not always work for mothers and it doesn’t always help the dad’s but the one’s that suffer are the children going through it all.

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