Unplanned Pregnancy: Legal Complications

TGB's Jane Miller writes about unplanned pregnancy and the legal issues facing the parents.

TGB’s Jane Miller writes about unplanned pregnancy and the legal issues facing the parents. 

An unplanned pregnancy is a shock in any circumstance, but especially so if you are not in a long term and committed relationship with the other parent.  In some cases the expecting parents are virtual strangers. The news that you are going to become a parent under these circumstances can raise many emotions and difficult decisions. 

But what are the legal considerations of the unexpected pregnancy? 

1. Are the couple going to commit to the relationship due to the impending birth of their child? They might decide to marry or enter a de facto relationship. If so, they can consider entering into a Binding Financial Agreement, which is sometimes referred to as a “pre-nup”. 

2. If they aren’t going to live together, then they will need to work out how they will both financially support the child after it is born. Sometimes this is done by agreement, but often it is necessary for them to seek help from the Child Support Agency (“CSA”).  In some cases the CSA will require paternity testing to be undertaken before requiring the father to pay Child Support. In other cases the CSA will make a presumption about paternity, which can be rebutted if necessary. Either way, this can be a delicate topic and it is advisable to get legal advice about financial obligations early. If possible, seek legal advice during the pregnancy so that you understand the full legal consequences of decisions like naming the father on the birth certificate. 

3. The mother might also claim a financial contribution from the father towards her living costs and medical expenses leading up to the birth of the baby. This entitlement is set out in the Family Law Act, and is often overlooked by expectant mothers in these circumstances. 

4. If the parents don’t plan to live together, ideally they will communicate during the pregnancy about where the child will live, when the child will see the other parent, and what the child’s surname will be. Unfortunately not all of these issues can be successfully negotiated, even with the help of a mediator, and therefore legal intervention might be necessary. Even if they do reach an agreement, they may choose to formalise that agreement by a Consent Minute of Order to be lodged at the Family Court. 

5. The parents should also consider updating their Wills and estate planning documents to provide for their child in the event they should pass away. 

6. Finally, in some cases each parent seeks advice about their decision making rights in terminating the pregnancy. 

Dealing with an unplanned pregnancy can be difficult, but some of these difficulties can be minimised by receiving the right legal advice as early as possible.

TGB is South Australia’s largest family law firm. For advice about your unplanned pregnancy issue or any other family law issue, contact your nearest TGB location.