TODAY   |  February 11, 2013

Co-parenting in a platonic relationship

TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie reports on a new trend in parenting – couples who are not romantically involved teaming up to raise a child. She speaks to one pair of such parents, as well as Darren Spedale, founder of Family By Design, which connects people looking for romance-free parenting relationships.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:37 with a new spin on the modern family. couples who are not dating or married but choosing to raise a child together. an arrangement that comes with some criticism. heidi sedowski and david share a biological connection with their son, but they don't share a romantic relationship with each other.

>> this is someone i've known for a very, very long time and i trust and i love her.

>> when heidi turned 41, she explored anonymous sperm donor options.

>> it left me feeling a little cold inside. i really wanted my child to have two parents and i wanted to share responsibility of raising a child with somebody.

>> so she turned to her gay friend of 20 years, david , who also wanted children.

>> and i said, david , we talked about this. i'm ready.

>> i just knew i was going to be this great dad.

>> three months later, heidi was pregnant. while heidi and david believe their co- parenting is rooted in having nate 's best interest in mind, experts say this trend should be approached with caution. the center for marriage and families at the institute for american values says, at best these parents are creating a good divorce situation. at worst, parents who have no foundation ace couple will soon face many conflicts over how to raise the child .

>> if you don't love the other person you are parenting your child with, it makes it that much more difficult to compromise.

>> while heidi and david admit their family may not be as traditional as others, they stand by their decision.

>> we feed and love and clothe and shelter him. the fact that we're not married is not a big deal .

>> david , eric and heidi sidowski is with us. connecting people who are looking for a coupleless co- parenting partnership. good morning to all of you. thank you for being here.

>> good morning.

>> we know what the good news is. you have this beautiful little boy , nate , that we just saw. how is this working out? what is the biggest challenge so far?

>> the biggest challenges for me so far, we do have separate households. it takes a lot of communicating. we need to really be on the same page. if we're not under the same roof that's a bit of a challenge at times.

>> when nate was little, he spends one night a week right now with david . is your ultimate goal to have the time split 50/50?

>> i think that's going to evolve over time . as nate gets older, we will see what's best for him as far as where he's going to school and what have you. the time he spends with david will definitely increase over time . i don't know if it will be 50/50. we have to decide what is in nate 's best interest .

>> you've known each other 20 years. you've sorted out a lot of the nuts and bolts, legal, finances and custody. there's so much in parenting that's truly unpredictable.

>> that's right.

>> do you worry about that at all?

>> if i worried, it would shut me down. and i always think about the best interests of my son. and we know as a couple, as a de facto couple that things are going to change along the way. we have to be open to that.

>> you mentioned the best trst child . you heard the criticism. this most approximates, i guess, a friendly divorce situation. is it good for a child to be shuttling through both households?

>> i think if that's all that child knows, then it becomes normal. it becomes okay. and as long as you provide the love and care and support that that child needs, whether you're in one household or two, it works.

>> let me turn to you, darren. have you had a huge response to your website?

>> absolutely. i founded family by design as a new parenting option for millions of adults in their 30s and 40s who are single, childless and still want to become parents. we all know someone like that our lives. think of liz lemon from " 30 rock ," for example. we educate people about what are parenting partnerships and walk them through a process. we actually connect people with our matching technology and we have experts and people in these types of relationships on the site to answer their questions and give them more information.

>> there was a family advocacy group spokesperson quoted in the times, it's a terrible idea, con signing a child to be raised in two different worlds with parents who did not even attempt to form a loving bond with one another. would you agree that in the best circumstances, a child should be raised in a home where the family -- in the traditional nuclear family ?

>> i think tradition -- i come from the traditional relationship. and i think, of course, that's a wonderful way to have a family. listen, we all know someone who is that person, right? we know someone who is that single person who just has wonderful love and care and would make such a great parent. and if you can connect two people of that same mind-set together and get them talking about the issues around parenting and take the time to build that relationship before they go down that path, that's going to be a really lucky child .

>> i was going to say, it's a little bit like a dating website , plus more. how long do you recommend couples talk about this before they take this on?

>> i'm also writing a book on parenting partnerships. i've interviewed dozens of couples in this type of relationship to understand what are the issues. there are three things it comes down to. first you have to take the time to get to know the person and build a real bond of friendship. that does take time. it does not happen overnight. number two, you have to like talk through all the issues around parenting and write it down. what are your feelings about what you need to cover. and to your point, once you have a child , things change and you have to build in the flexibility and strength in the relationship.

>> very quickly, heidi and david , any advice?

>> know what you're getting into. it's not dating. we're creating -- the stakes are very, very high. we're creating a life and we have a son together.

>> and know what you want as well. from the female half of the partnership, if it is a male/female couple, if you will, know if you want an involved parent versus just an anonymous donor.

>> interesting to get your story and your perspective. thank you so much for being here.