My colleague, Elizabeth Mathews, has writtten an interesting note on a recent case:
Sharing the pain of childbirth – father ordered to pay $14,000 to mother for costs of pregnancy
A recent decision of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia implemented a rarely used principle that a father’s financial responsibility for a child extends to the costs incurred by a mother in having that child.
In Abrahams v Simm  FCCA 67, the father of the subject child was ordered to pay $14,000 towards the mother’s reasonable medical expenses and to support her for a period of two months prior to and three months following the birth.
The relevant provisions are sections 67B and 67C of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), which state that a father of a child who is not married to the child’s mother is responsible for the following expenses:
- The maintenance of the mother for the childbirth maintenance period (usually two months prior to and three months following the birth of the child) ;
- The mother’s reasonable medical expenses in relation to the pregnancy and birth; and
- Funeral expenses for either the mother or the child if either passes away during or as a result of the pregnancy or childbirth.
This was in a situation where the parties were in a de facto relationship for only eighteen months prior to the birth of the child.
Notably, the Court did not agree with the mother’s assertions that she ought be paid $27,061, $15,610 of which was for her maintenance before and after the birth of the child, and $11,451 of which was for her medical expenses. The Court rejected that the father should have to pay for costs including a “doula” birthing partner, a settling swing and the costs of the mother’s private health insurance. The Court also noted that the father should not have to bear the full cost of the mother’s lost income and outgoings (which included a substantial mortgage) during the childbirth maintenance period, but should rather pay one-half of such expenses. The Court subsequently limited the mother’s reasonable medical expenses to $7,000, and allowed for $7,000 in spousal maintenance for the period two months prior to and three months following the birth of the child.
In accordance with the Court’s treatment of government benefits in ordinary spousal maintenance cases, the fact that the mother was to receive Family Tax Benefits A and B and a “Baby Bonus” of $5,000 was not taken into account in assessing her reasonable needs.