Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund

Checklist for Polyamorous People Contemplating Parenthood

  1. Paternity
    1. Decide well in advance of the birth who the parents on the birth certificate will be. The default is that paternity belongs to a legal husband.
    2. Arrange for DNA paternity testing, from cord blood and/or cheek swabs. If you REALLY don’t want to know who the father is, put the result envelope in a secure place unopened. (It is not fair to the child not to have this information available if needed, for legal or health reasons. It is much easier to get the samples for testing while your pod is happy and together.)
  2. Guardianship
    Petition the family or probate court for voluntary guardianship of a minor. The guardian should be co-guardian with the legal parents so that he/she is not "instead of" but "in addition to" the parents. Get copies of the appointment document, to provide to the pediatrician, day-care, preschool, etc., if requested.
  3. Estate planning
    1. Execute wills to determine the disposition of property upon your death. The way you hold title to any real estate will affect its inheritance. Wills should also contain a request for the appointment of a guardian (for care and custody) and a trustee (for money and property) for the children. (Such requests are not absolutely binding on the court. If there is a surviving parent, that parent is the natural guardian, and can’t be displaced just by your will.) The guardian and the trustee might be different people, since the tasks demand very different skills.
    2. Consider life insurance to assure that there are funds for the children.
  4. Medical decisions
    All parties should execute powers of attorney appointing health care proxies to make decisions about health care in the event of incompetency. These should also give instructions as to who is allowed hospital visitation privileges.
  5. Agreement
    Write down an agreement about arrangements for property division and custody and visitation of the children in the event your family breaks up. If you are not a biological parent, and you would want to have a continuing relationship with the children, this agreement should specifically refer to your parental role and provide for visitation or shared or alternating custody. It should determine any responsibility to pay child support.

    Warning: Courts apply the "best interests of the child" doctrine, which trumps an agreement of the parties if the court thinks the agreement is NOT in the child’s best interests. Further, courts have required payment of child support from "de facto" parents. If you have acted in a parental role to an unrelated child, and especially if you have provided support, it is possible that child support after separation could be ordered, no matter what the parties may have agreed earlier.

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