Single parents have more options available to them when choosing a dating Web site than they might think. In addition to the major online dating sites, which usually offer options for single parents, a number of sites specifically targeting single parents also exist. In fact, a 2007 study found that about 16 percent of all users on dating sites are single parents [source: Mindlin]. Before you get started, it's important to know the options available to you.
Although these sites can be both paid and free, most paid sites will offer a free trial for a short period of time so you can search for other users' profiles in your area. This might not seem particularly helpful if you're in a major city with countless potential users on the site, but people in smaller towns -- where the number of users is likely to be smaller -- may benefit from being able to sneak a quick preview before signing over any cash. After the free trial you'll be prompted to sign up for a monthly subscription with monthly fees ranging from an average of $8 to $60, depending on the service. Free sites might be more enticing, but consider that an open-enrollment process might make profiles less reliable because people have no real investment for creating accurate profiles. You should browse several services and decide which one is best suited for you.
Depending on the site you choose, the process for meeting someone will vary. In most cases, you'll create a profile by categorizing yourself and your interests, such as personal preferences and hobbies. Then the Web site will run an algorithm to pair your profile up with others who could be possible matches. You can contact other users based on the potential matches or simply by browsing others' profiles.
The difference between dating sites and networking sites is fairly straightforward: Dating sites tend to operate as matchmakers, and networking sites allow you to post a profile as a means of communication for people you most likely -- but not necessarily -- already know in real life. Basically, you can consider a dating site as a digital matchmaker whereas social networking sites are a connection of friends.
Because of the vast majority of dating sites available, you may find yourself leaning toward smaller, single-parent-specific sites. Many of these even offer in-person mixers for single parents instead of one-on-one dating. These can be a viable, less risky alternative because they allow you to meet people in a group setting.
If meeting people face-to-face is more your style, read on to find out what options are available for you.