Expecting mother? Do you have rights to financial contributions as a single mum?

Expecting mother? Wanting financial contributions from the father? If you’re about to be a single mum, it’s important to know what rights you and your unborn child have in accessing financial contributions. Read on to find out how.

Single mum

What rights do you have as an single mum?

 

After the recent swearing in of Donald Trump to office, the anti-abortion/pro-life argument has again become more publicised. In Australia, the fact of the matter is that the Family Court cannot make orders in relation to an unborn child. Consistent with that, a husband cannot prevent his wife from terminating a pregnancy.

With dating apps becoming all the more popular these days, the stigma which previously surrounded  pre-marital sex is becoming less prominent and, gradually, these notions are becoming more accepted by society. Likewise, pregnancies from artificial insemination and single parent adoptions are more common-place. In 1980 only 12.4% of babies were born outside of a marriage, compared to 2008 when more than one-third of all babies born were born outside a marriage.[1]

So what rights do you have as a single mum?

Liability of a father and what can be claimed

Section 67B of the Family Law Act 1975 allows a pregnant woman who is not married to the father of the child to apply to the court to have the father of her unborn child provide her with financial support.  The financial support includes a proper contribution by the father towards:

  1. the maintenance of the mother for the childbirth maintenance period in relation to the birth of the child; and
  2. the mother’s reasonable medical expenses in relation to the pregnancy and birth.

The section of the legislation can be broken down into different parts:

  1. Maintenance of the mother

It is only the mother’s maintenance and the mother’s medical expenses which are to be considered under a section 67B Application. This means the costs of purchasing clothes for the baby, nappies, baby food or formula, and furniture items such as a crib, are not covered under this application. These items instead fall under an application for child support.

The mother’s maintenance includes the living costs of the mother. This means things like the mother’s rent, food, phone and internet, petrol, car expenses, purchasing of maternity clothes, and so on.  The birth of the child and medical expenses includes medical costs such as pre-natal supplements, doctor’s appointments, hospital visits and stays, anaesthetist costs, and so on.

  1. The period of time

The act states that the period of time for which the father is liable to pay maintenance is as follows:-

  1. For no more than 3 months after the child is born;
  2. For no more than 2 months before the child is born. The exception to this is if the mother is employed, and receives medical advice from a Doctor to stop working for medical reasons related to her pregnancy and the mother then stops work after receiving that advice and more than 2 months before the child is due to be born; and
  3. If the mother dies as a result of the pregnancy or birth or the child is stillborn or dies where the death is related to the birth, then the father may be liable to make a proper contribution towards the reasonable expenses of the mother’s funeral and/or the child’s funeral, as the case may be.

What needs to be proven

The s67B Application itself is not as simple as the mother applying to the court for assistance and then receiving the funds she needs. The court has a duty to consider a number of things before awarding the financial support.

As summarised in a recent Federal Circuit Court Case[1], the Court must consider:-

  1. How much money each parent is able to earn, what property they each own, and what financial resources they each have (noting that an income-tested pension allowance or benefit – such as the baby bonus – is not considered to be a financial resource for either parent); and
  2. The necessary commitments both parents have for supporting themselves, as well as commitments to support any other child or person; and
  3. any special circumstances which, if not considered, would result in an injustice outcome or cause undue hardship to any person.

The court must be satisfied that the father is in a position to be able to make a contribution and that the mother is in need of the support. If the court is satisfied that this is the case, the court will then considers what is a “proper contribution”. Generally, courts consider a half share of the mother’s costs to be a proper contribution.[2]

The court will then determine when the father must make the payment and how the payment must be paid, whether by a lump sum or by weekly payments.

Please be advised that each circumstance will differ. If you think this section my apply to you as a single mum, or you would like legal advice for any other family law matter, contact us. We offer free 15-minute telephone consultation with our highly-experienced team of lawyers.

 

[1] Millar and Johnston [2015] FCCA 543

[2] Abrahams & Simm [2014] FCCA 67

Sources:

[1] Australian Institute of Family Studies, Families then and now: 1980 – 2010 (16 February 2017) Australian Government – Australian Institute of Family Studies <https://aifs.gov.au/publications/families-then-and-now-1980-2010>