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As it becomes increasingly common to start a family through artificial insemination and surrogacy, a growing number of same-sex and heterosexual couples are entering into informal parenting agreements. Unfortunately these informal or oral agreements can lead to disputes after the child is born. A breakdown in the adult relationships can be caused by a difference in understanding of what roles each person expects to play in the child’s life. To avoid such disputes we advise those entering into these arrangements to be clear and precise about their expectations before any attempt to conceive is made, and have developed the pre-conception agreement, or ‘pre-con’.
What is a Pre-Con?
A Pre-Con is a written agreement, entered into by prospective parents which sets out the roles and responsibilities each of the parties will have in a child’s life.
The key point is that it should be entered into before conception. The advantages of this are that all parties are equal at the time of forming the agreement and you will quickly identify if there is a lack of consensus.
A Pre-Con would not be legally binding. However, in the event of future litigation, it would be considered by the Court and carry evidential weight.
Why enter into a Pre-Con?
To avoid conflict. One of the risks of not entering into a Pre-Con is that the perception of an oral agreement can shift and take on a different emphasis. The aim of entering in a Pre-Con is to ensure that arrangements for a child’s care will work in practice and will not break down. Detailed discussions will be entered into before the Pre-Con is signed and so all parties to the agreement will have a clear understanding of how the arrangements will work in practice.
What will go in a Pre-Con?
The Pre-Con can be tailored to suit each individual family and reflect issues which are of particular importance to the adults involved. It could include:
- Who is going to be on the child’s birth certificate?
- Who is going to choose the child’s name?
- Who will attend parents’ evenings?
- Where will the child spend his birthday, Father’s Day and or Mother’s Day?
How do I get a Pre-Con?
Potential parents should instruct specialist Children Act lawyers with expertise in this area.
We can advise you on:
- Wealth protection – nuptial or cohabitee agreements to decide how assets will be divided if things don’t go to plan, before there is any bad feeling
- Relationship breakdown – ongoing financial arrangements, division of assets and child care arrangements
- Property disputes between separating couples
- Artificial insemination and surrogacy – pre and post-conception agreements for those using a known donor or surrogate mother to conceive
- Alternative parenting arrangements – parental responsibility and agreements for the care of children, including residence and contact
- Protection from harassment and domestic violence
- Privacy issues.
Due to the personal nature of our work we are not able to provide many specific examples.
Groundbreaking outcome for Harbottle & Lewis family clients
In a groundbreaking decision, High Court judge Mr Justice Hedley established the concept of secondary parenting to describe the significant role played by two gay men, successfully represented by Harbottle & Lewis, who had entered into an artificial insemination arrangement with a lesbian couple. Rejecting the argument that the future relationship between the children and the men should be identity only, Mr Justice Hedley proceeded to make an order for regular staying contact for the men.
Civil partnership dissolution
We are acting on a high value case involving the dissolution of a civil partnership. The case raises arguments in new and previously untested areas of law.
We regularly write articles for the press about LGBT issues and Linzi Bull has spoken on Gaydar Radio and Women’s Hour about pre-conception agreements.
Harbottle & Lewis recognised for its role in establishing Pre-Conception Agreements. Click here for more information on LegalWeek.com