In addition to periodic child support payments, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have power to make orders requiring a father of a child to contribute towards a mother’s childbearing costs. An application however can only be made if the parents were not married. The application can be made any time during the pregnancy of the mother, however must be made within 12 months of the birth of the child.
The court may make orders for the father to pay for the maintenance of the mother during the childbirth maintenance period and the mother’s reasonable medical expenses in relation to the pregnancy and birth.
Under the Family Law Act, the childbirth maintenance period can commence from up to two months prior to the child’s due date, but ends three months after the child’s birth.
In deciding what contribution should be made by a father, the court must take into account:-
- The income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the mother and father, with the court disregarding any entitlements of the mother to an income tested pension, allowance or benefit;
- Commitments of each of those persons that are necessary to enable the person to support themselves, or any other child that person has a duty to maintain; and
- Any other special circumstances, which if not taken into account, would result in injustice or undue hardship to any person.
The court will require evidence so it is important that a mother that is considering bringing such an application should keep a diary of all medical appointments and copies of all tax invoices. A diary note should also be made to ensure that the application is filed within the required 12 months.
Like all family law cases, the eventual outcome will ultimately depend on the facts of the case. I have set out below by way of illustration of how a court may determine such an application for child bearing costs, the facts and outcome from a recent family law case:
- The mother sought the father to pay to her the sum of $27,061. $15,610 for her maintenance during the childbirth maintenance period and $11,451 for her reasonable medical expenses in relation to the pregnancy and birth. The costs of $15,610 related to the loss of income for the 6 weeks prior to the child’s birth and the 3 months after that.
- The application was made within 12 months of the child’s birth. Following DNA testing, the father no longer disputed the paternity of the child and he proposed orders that he pay the mother $7,000 by way of maintenance and expenses. The father submitted that this was a reasonable amount as he had already paid the mother $3,200 by way of financial support and that he should not have to bear all the costs and expenses claimed, but rather only half.
- The court was not satisfied that the mother’s medical expenses strictly came within the term of “reasonable medical expenses”, as she sought costs for all of her health insurance cover, a Doula birthing partner (a non-medical labour assistant) and a settling swing.
- The court ordered $7,000 in relation to her maintenance during the childbirth maintenance period and a further $7,000 for her reasonable medical expenses.