Pre-nuptial agreements continue to grow in popularity for savvy couples who want to make practical arrangements about their future, should their marriage ever breakdown. But 2019 has seen the increase in couples entering into an unconventional family contract – a 'baby-nup'!
Whilst co-parenting and conception agreements are commonly used by those in alternative family structures, these are for separated parents or families. Baby care contracts, or 'baby-nups', as they’ve been coined, are agreements entered in to by couples who want to agree in advance what their roles and duties will be when their newest member of the family arrives.
It can cover anything that the expecting parents want to include; daily chores (i.e. changing nappies, bathing, playing, feeding during the day and night times), grandparents access, finances, wills and trust arrangements etc. The aim is to distribute responsibilities fairly between the parents, and to reach agreement about important issues before the baby arrives.
The spirit of a 'baby nup' is to encourage equal co-parenting. It seems sensible in theory, focusing the minds of expectant parents whilst they still have the time and energy to have important discussions, but is it realistic to plan out parenthood in a contract and can they be enforced?
Most expectant parents already reflect on and discuss in advance how they plan to care for their children, with a view to agreeing a parenting approach. However, documenting these well-intentioned expectations in a 'baby-nup' agreement takes it a step further. A 'baby-nup' will not legally bind the other parent and there is little, if any, recourse for an aggrieved parent should one refuse, let's say, to change yet another nappy.
In England & Wales the family court's prevailing concern is what is in the best interests of a child, taking in to account the child's physical and emotional needs. No matter how well thought out an agreement is on paper the reality is that 'baby-nups' are unlikely to carry any 'baby' weight in a family court!