An investigation by The Times has revealed that thousands of would-be parents are using websites to find a platonic partner with whom to have a child without any binding legal agreement between couples.
There are three main websites used by those seeking to become a parent with a stranger – Co-ParentMatch.com/i> launched in 2006, co-parents.co.uk launched in 2008 and PollenTree.com launched in 2011.
Figures from the sites show that more than 30% of those who sign up as members are looking for a platonic partner with whom they can conceive a child, while others sign up as sperm donors or are looking for a sperm donor.
Co-ParentMatch.com now has 2,000 members – while PollenTree.com says that 120 babies have been born to members since the site’s launch in 2011.
The Daily Mail reports that the founders of Co-ParentMatch.com say that for women, using a co-parenting website is “mostly a second-best option”. Patrick and Rita Harrison say that the aim of the website is not to exploit members – all members are “vetted” and can be banned if found to be breaching rules or considered “problematic”.
The websites are used by single men and women and gay couples – who upload a profile to the site, as in the case of dating websites.
The websites particularly appeal to women who feel they may never meet a partner with whom to have a child – but increasing use of co-parent sites raises questions as to the future of parenting.
Mr Harrison said that some couples opt to share a child, who would live between each co-parent’s home – or some members of the site want minimal involvement with any child born, but act as sperm donors.
A member of one co-parenting site, 40-year-old Simon Watson, has provided sperm as a full-time donor for 15 years and has so far fathered 500 children. He has contact with the first child he fathered and limited involvement on children’s birthdays. Recently, Mr Watson’s sperm donations made three women pregnant within 10 days.
Artificial insemination can be carried out at a private clinic or on the NHS – in which case, the father would have no legal rights over any child conceived and born.
However, if couples opt for DIY insemination using a home kit, both parents have legal rights over any child conceived and born as a result.
The co-parent websites provide members with home insemination kits – and agreements between co-parents can be drawn up, but may not be legally binding in the Family Division of the court.
Commenting on the increasing popularity of co-parent websites, Harry Benson from the Marriage Foundation criticised the practice of co-parenting, saying it was “spectacularly selfish to time-share a child”.
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