THE BLOG
02/22/2013 04:25 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2013

Designing Your New Modern Family

What are the prerequisites for becoming a parent nowadays? Many believe that a romantic relationship, followed by marriage, is still the only option to appropriately raise a child in a well-balanced home.

But while June Cleaver of "Leave It To Beaver" may continue to loom large in our Norman Rockwell vision of a family, today's reality is more Liz Lemon from "30 Rock." Today, most of us have friends who are in their late thirties, unmarried and just haven't found the right person to spend their life with yet. Or maybe it's you, the overachieving, career-driven worker, living in a big city where being unmarried in your thirties is perfectly normal. With television shows like "Modern Family" and "The New Normal" depicting new methods of raising a family, is the 30-something generation ready for new parenting options that break free of expectations that were created centuries ago?

Parenting partnerships, a new phrase that has gotten a lot of attention in the media recently, is defined as people not in a romantic relationship who come together to build a relationship that leads to having a child together and raising the child as co-parents. While the details of these relationships can vary somewhat around the situation of the partners and the best interests of their children, the idea is to connect like-minded people who are not in a traditional relationship and are at a stage in their lives where they are ready to become parents. This concept was recently explored in the movie Friends With Kids.

Given that some people would like to find the right parenting partner but don't have that person in their circle of friends, the phenomenon of parenting partnerships has more recently taken to the Internet -- and companies such as Pollentree.com, Prideangel.com and FamilyByDesign.com are taking the lead in helping those interested to find their ideal parenting partner match.

FamilyByDesign.com takes a comprehensive "community" approach to parenting partnerships. The site educates people about the process with a step-by-step "co-parenting guide," matches people with prospective partners through detailed profiles and a "compatibility score" and brings forth a team of professional experts on the modern family and people in successful partnership relationships who provide content and answer questions of site users in a "Dear Abby" format.

This particular company is not just riding the Internet wave; the site's founder, Darren Spedale, has researched and written about non-traditional families since the 1990s, and is currently writing a book on parenting partnerships based on his interviews with several dozen people in these types of relationships:

There are three main points that people interested in parenting partnerships need to consider. First, you need to take the time to build a strong bond of friendship with your partner before even thinking about conceiving -- this should take many months or longer. Second, you need to talk through all the issues around parenting during this period and ultimately write your co-parenting agreement down -- consult an attorney to help draft your agreement together. And finally, once you've done all this planning, keep in mind your relationship still needs to be strong enough and flexible enough to handle the change that will naturally come after your child is born, and to always keep the best interests of your child as concern number one. If you take this time -- to build a strong personal bond, and talk through all the issues around parenting before going down the path together -- you've got a formula for a successful modern family.

Of course, not everyone approves of the emergence of new parenting options. Some insist that a child needs the stability of a cohabitating romantic relationship. Spedale's research has led him to conclude that if you can bring two caring, thoughtful and responsible people together who build a relationship with one another first and who focus on the best interest of the child at all times, a parenting partnership can be just as stable as more traditional forms of family.

With parenting partnerships being discussed on a national platform and research suggesting that younger generations now value parenting more than marriage, new modern family possibilities are going mainstream. Members of Gen X and Gen Y -- men and women, straight and gay - -are redefining what constitutes a family today. With new innovative websites offering unique services like parenting partnerships, our single friends who have all the qualities to make great parents are discovering that just because they are not in a traditional relationship doesn't mean that they too can't become loving, nurturing parents. So for all of us who know our own Liz Lemon -- or identify with her ourselves -- maybe this is our next best option?