Photo: David Jay (left) with his co-parents, Avary Kent and Zeke Hausfather, and their daughter, Octavia Hausfather Jay Kent.
David Jay identifies as asexual. He desires close relationships, but not sexual ones — and yet he's always wanted to be a parent. In his late thirties, that dream came true: He's now co-parenting a toddler in the Bay Area with two other parents.
In March 2019, Jay and his co-parents took advantage of a brand-new California law that allows children to have more than two legal parents. After months of details, Jay completed the adoption paperwork that anointed him as his daughter’s third parent in the eyes of the state. I had the honor of being present in the courtroom when it was all signed and delivered, and laughing along with the others when the judge said: "This is a first for me. Congratulations!" Later that week, there was a community ceremony with cupcakes in the colors of the asexual flag: Purple, grey, white, and black.
The heartwarming sweetness of the cupcakes shouldn’t gloss over the reality that this arrangement took a ton of hard work. In order to become a parent in a way that functioned within his boundaries, Jay had to really think outside the box. He had to find someone — or in this case, multiple someones — with whom he felt comfortable co-parenting. Once he found them, the three had to deeply ponder what it means to be a parent. Which parts of parenting are biological, and which parts are social and cultural? What's the best way to split up the labor? If disagreements arise about values, about where to live, about school, then how do the parents decide what happens?
Jay and his co-parents spent years talking about these questions before finalizing their decision to have a child together. In the process, they created a "co-parenting contract," and they've been generous enough to share a slightly abridged version with us at The New Modality. (Some personal material was removed from the document before we saw it.)
Here's how the contract begins:
This document describes an agreement between Zeke Hausfather, Avary Kent, and David Jay to co-parent a child. It is our hope that articulating our shared values, shared intentions, and existing agreements in these pages will provide a useful reference for future conversations, and that regularly revisiting and adjusting these agreements will help to maintain healthy communication and decision making within our family. It should be noted that this is not a legally binding contract, even in places where financial systems are discussed, merely an informal statement of shared intention.
It is the intention of the three of us (Zeke, Avary, and David) to serve as equal partners in raising a child. As of the writing of this document, this child is due August 30th 2017. It is the goal of all three parents to strive for equality in parental rights and responsibilities, financial contribution, decision making power, and legal status. We believe that having three loving parents in our child’s life will allow us to more effectively nurture and support our child. We embark on this journey together after a long history of shared love, friendship, and intentionality.
The contract contains sections with headers like "Decision Making and Communication," "Finances," "Parental and Household Responsibilities," "Discipline," "Family Time," "Community," "Education," "Child Healthcare," "Relocation," "Disagreements," "Separation," and "Loss of Ability to Parent." Several sections, including “Separation” and “Relocation,” include specific trigger points at which the group pre-commits to a mediation session.
The contract mainly concerns itself with pre-planning processes among the three co-parents, but some parts of it specify numbers or other boundaries. For instance, in the "Finances" section, they plan for disparities in income by saying: "Our intention is to set our standard of living and that of our child to one which will allow the parent with the lowest income to comfortably contribute their ⅓ share, though we recognize that this may not always be possible."
In the "Community" section, they plan for all the parents to get romantic time by saying: "We intend to structure parental responsibilities in a way that will allow each of us to maintain healthy personal relationships, both with members of our personal communities and with our committed partners. This includes regular time for Avary and Zeke to focus on their marriage as well as regular time for David to spend time with his romantic partner at least once per week."
You can read the full six-page contract that was shared with The New Modality online at: bit.ly/tavicoparentingagreement
Part of our mission at NewMo is to provide tools for people who seek to practice alternative relationships and family arrangements with integrity and care. Many such families keep their workings private, so I'm grateful to this household for allowing us to show so much of their backstage process. If you’ve seen other great examples we could document, drop us a line using our tip form: bit.ly/HelpTheNewModality
This article was written by Lydia Laurenson, editor in chief of The New Modality. (Learn more about Lydia at her NewMo profile.) It wasn't fact-checked by a third party. The first version was published online in November 2019; after the publication of our first print issue in 2020, this page was slightly modified to bring it in line with the version that was printed.
There's more about our transparency process at our page about truth and transparency at The New Modality.