The Pre-Natal Agreement (from The Whole Parent)
- We are agreeing to bring children into the world as 50/50 co-parents.
- If our relationship fails, regardless of the circumstances, we agree to continue co-parenting with a 50/50 custody agreement, parenting schedule and shared financial responsibility.
- To avoid unnecessary trauma and hardship to either parent, this agreement will supersede any divorce decree or lawsuit filed under protest by either parent.
Signed and dated DAD:
Signed and dated MOM:
“What we are agreeing to, now, before we have kids,
is to cherish and value the 50/50 co-parenting
of the other parent forever.”
Let’s talk about becoming parents and what that means for both us, as a couple, and our potential children.
First, let’s agree that parenting is a huge responsibility. Once we’ve set these little beings on the planet beside us, they are here forever. Our relationship, our marriage, might not last, but our bonds as parents and our bonds with our kids are permanent and immutable. What is important to understand is that our relationship with our kids supersedes all other relationships. You will understand this better once your children have arrived. The universe is altered forever. For good, yes. But things will never be the same after you become a parent.
So, let’s pause for a minute and discuss just how we are going to move forward as parents and co-parents. Let’s set some expectations and agreements in place BEFORE we become parents. That way, even as our lives are upended with the hurricane of love, that is raising a newborn, we have some safeguards and promises in place. Here’s what I’m talking about.
Before we agree to have kids, we need to understand the equality of our contributions to these potential offspring. Even before we have intentional and unprotected sex, let’s agree that we are going into this agreement as equal (50/50) partners. We are all in. We are equal. And from the moment our child arrives, we are going to be bound by our commitment and overwhelming love for our child. We start as equals.
Sure, there are parts of caring for a newborn that dads can’t do. We don’t have breasts that can produce milk. We can hold and feed our child at any time, but we cannot physically produce mother’s milk. And that’s about the extent of a father’s limitations.
- Change diapers at any hour of the night
- Feed the baby at any time
- Get up with a fussy baby and let the other parent sleep
- Do laundry and dishes and diapers
- Love and nurture the mom back to optimal health
- Love and nurture the baby at all hours
- Love and nurture their child forever and ever, amen
There are stereotypes that say moms have to do the lion’s share of parenting once a child is born. That’s simply not true. It could be true if you start checking out of the parenting process. Sometimes the stereotypes seem to encourage dads to let the moms do the hard stuff. And there will certainly be men who opt out of the full responsibility of being a 50/50 co-parent. This agreement is not for the men who want to do less.
Our parents might have shown us some of the bad habits that we believe about the differences between fathers and mothers. We might have been told that a mother’s love is different and deeper than a father’s love. Or, we might have believed at some point in our lives that dads were not as emotionally mature or available for their kids. And, I believe my dad would’ve agreed with those lies. I believe my dad (and many men) will agree to the stereotypes because it puts most of the burden on the mom. Again, we’re going to do this parenting thing differently than our parents. And today is the day we’re going to change it up as men, and agree to be 100% available and willing to co-parent with our moms. We are willing to get dirty, tired, and lovey-dovey all at the same time.
If we can let go of the limiting stereotypes about men and parenting, we can begin to build a new agreement, a new partnership between men and women as they consider having children together. Let’s do that. Let’s start a new trend. Let’s proclaim our equality and give our kids 100% of both of our support 100% of the time. If we are in this together, we are in this 100% together.
Before we have kids we need to agree to our 50/50 partnership on everything. Chores. Bill paying. Cooking dinner. Cleaning the kids and their environments. Entertaining the kids. Missing work to nurture a sick kid. We can divide and conquer, we can split these tasks up differently (for example dad may agree to be the primary breadwinner for several years), but we are in agreement that each of us is equally responsible, and equally available for living up to our duties as parents.
My hope and prayer is that your family remains prosperous and intact for the long haul. And as you continue to share your co-parenting responsibilities my hope is that you will share the celebration of your milestones and victories with your children. Your kids need you both to be engaged on all levels. Again, you may decide to split some of the duties out of convenience and practicality, but your goal is never to view the other parent’s role or participation as less vital.
Marriages Come and Go, But Parenting Is Forever
Where this pre-natal agreement really comes into effect is in the event you and the other parent decide, for whatever reason, that you can no longer be married to each other. And for the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to assume that the divorce is mutual and assigns no-fault to either parent. The heart of this pre-natal agreement comes into effect in the event the couple decides to divorce. What we are agreeing to, now, before we have kids, is to cherish and value the 50/50 co-parenting of the other parent forever.
Many states in the US begin divorce negotiations by giving the mom more than 70% of the children’s post-divorce schedule. In this agreement, we are both stating that in the case of a no-fault divorce, we are waiving our rights to fight about co-parenting and custody schedules, and we are agreeing, ahead of time, to co-parent at 50/50. As parents, we both believe our kids deserve equal parenting time between moms and dads.
What About the Money?
This agreement does not attempt to guide the family courts or our personal attorneys in the assignment and distribution of assets or child support orders. Those issues are above and beyond the scope of our current love and appreciation of any couple making the decision to have children together. It is our hope, that an equitable and fair financial arrangement will go along with the spirit of this parenting agreement.
John McElhenney has been processing his divorce since 2010 on his internationally acclaimed blog The Whole Parent. The Pre-Natal Agreement was created on November 20th, 2019, in a blog post about divorce, A Rebirth of the Compassionate Parent & Divorced Dad Advocate. John believes in 50/50 shared parenting before and after divorce, and is working with Texas and national lobby groups to establish 50/50 custody as the starting point for a divorce between parents. He is an author and national speaker on parenting, divorce, and dating again. His latest book, A Good Dad’s Guide to Divorce is available on Amazon.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
Additional articles about 50/50 parenting and divorce:
- A Rebirth of the Compassionate Parent & Divorced Dad Advocate
- What Makes a Great Dad? 5 Things I Learned From My Divorce
- The War on Divorcing Fathers: Deadbeat Dad Accusations Are Abusive
- Next-Level Parenting: Being Awesome Even in Divorce
- Asking for Support is Hard for Most of Us, Especially Men
- The Four Simple Rules for Dads Getting Divorced
- Experience, Strength, and Hope After a Divorce with Kids