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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

“Co-parenting” websites

In a recent ABC television interview, Rachel Hope, 42, shared her situation as an unmarried woman who wants a third child but has not yet found her “soulmate.” While she admits it’s not ideal, she has turned to a “co-parenting” website in order to seek a father for the child she hopes to conceive by this January.

While it’s not wrong to speak of a married mother and father as “co-parents,” there is a relatively new phenomenon called “co-parenting” whereby two or more persons contract with each other to have a child, with the understanding that there is no expectation for any kind of relationship between them. In other words, as the New York Times described it, “Making a Child, Minus the Couple.”

Hope’s two children are from different men and different situations. Her oldest, Jesse, is the son of her childhood best friend. Her daughter Grace, 4, was conceived via IVF with “co-parent” Paul Wenner, nearly 67 years old, who lives with the Hope family. In some ways he is like a member of the family, but not a romantic interest of Hope, who has a boyfriend.

Wenner does not want another child, in part due to his age, and this has Hope seeking a new co-parent for her desired third child. Her current boyfriend had a vasectomy and thus is not able to father a child. Therefore, searching the profiles on has become her outlet for seeking a baby.

The website’s name is a shortened version of “modern family.” “It’s a database of people ready to be parents. I mean, how easy!” said Hope of Modamily on the ABC interview.

But the voiceover for the interview describes Modamily as “a dating site that cuts straight to the divorce.” The graphics in Modamily’s video ad depict not love, but a baby, as the connection between potential “co-parents.”

Modamily’s founder, Ivan Fatovic, defends the co-parenting concept. In a interview, Fatovic described co-parenting as “helping people fulfill their dream of becoming a parent on their own terms.” He went on to say, “Success is each and every new family that we help create – nothing rivals the happiness we get from helping people have children. Creating a family often sits at the top of a person’s list of life goals, so being able to help them achieve something that immense — we consider ourselves lucky to be part of the process.”

The process of finding a co-parent involves questions and procedures that historically have not been part of becoming a parent. There are suggested background checks. There’s the decision of whether to conceive via “natural insemination” (i.e. sexual intercourse) or via artificial insemination or IVF. Profile searchers can choose what “sexual orientation” they would like their co-parent to embrace, as well as what parenting styles they choose. Will they live together or move closer? Should they speak with a lawyer before beginning the process?

It seems that at least some people who participate in “co-parenting” arrangements are deliberately seeking to ensure that children grow up knowing both their mother and father, instead of pursuing “single parenthood by choice” or anonymous sperm donation. But the question is whether a co-parenting partnership is really good for children.

The desire for motherhood and fatherhood is a good and noble desire, but the phenomenon of “co-parenting” raises many questions. For example, co-parenting arrangements can cause children to question the security of their origins. As Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, told the New York Times: “It’s a terrible idea, deliberately consigning a child to be raised in two different worlds, with parents who did not even attempt to form a loving bond with one another. […]As children of divorce will tell you, it’s very difficult to grow up in two different worlds, with your parents each pursuing separate love lives that can be increasingly complex over the course of a childhood.”

In addition to the problematic use of assisted reproductive technology in many “co-parenting” arrangements, contracting with another person solely for the sake of having a child treats that person in a utilitarian fashion, as a means to the end of parenthood. It also obscures the fact that children are meant to be the fruit of their parents’ love and not the result of a contractual agreement between otherwise strangers.

A sense of unease about co-parenting is echoed even by Hope’s 22-year-old son Jesse, who was “co-parented” before matching sites existed: “Jesse feels he was lucky to have such a fantastic upbringing, seeing so many other parents divorce, but he doesn’t feel co-parenting is the ideal scenario in which to raise a child. He’s quite conservative and feels a husband and wife who are in love are the ideal role models for a child. I kind of agree with him!”

About the author
Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Master’s in Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and her undergraduate degree in Theology and Journalism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Emily shares the good news of the Catholic faith through writing, media appearances and speaking opportunities, which she has done on three continents. She and her husband Brad live in southeast Indiana.