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It is becoming increasingly common to see children born out of wedlock as well as out of short-term relationships between dating couples. Where two people are not married or in a committed relationship, arguments can arise as to whether the soon-to-be-father has a legal obligation to support the soon-to-be-mother before the child is born.
In an article written by law professor Shari Motro in The New York Times, the issue of whether a father has an obligation to contribute financially to the pregnancy before the child is born was discussed. Dr. Motro’s position that a father should be obligated to contribute to the mother’s prenatal expenses (referred to as “preglimony”) evolved into a discussion as to whether imposing financial responsibility on the father granted him the right to interfere with the manner in which the mother handled her pregnancy (specifically, her right to abort the pregnancy).
In short, I agree with Dr. Motro’s position. Any person who impregnates a woman should have as much financial responsibility as the woman does during the pregnancy. In Ontario, while a support payor’s child support obligation does not arise until the birth of a child (as a fetus is not legally recognized as a person) s. 34(1)(h) of the Family Law Act permits the court to make an order requiring payment of expenses in respect to a child’s prenatal care and birth. In one Ontario case the court awarded spousal support to the soon-to-be-mother to assist her with prenatal care (although there must be a finding that the relationship was of significant length to imply that there was some permanence in order to fall under the definition of “spouse” under the Family Law Act).
With the cost of prenatal vitamins, medications and birthing classes the costs incurred before the child is born can mount. In the event that the mother has complications with her pregnancy and is unable to work, why should she suffer a loss in income and incur expenses with no contribution from the father?
While it may seem unfair to have to contribute to prenatal expenses when the father doesn’t have a say in what happens with the pregnancy, the fact of the matter is, there is no law compelling a mother to tell the father about her pregnancy. There is no law compelling a mother and father to jointly decide how to handle the pregnancy. Ultimately, it is the mother’s choice on how to handle the pregnancy. It is, after all, her body and her health at risk. If a father were paying child support for a child, the mere fact that he has a financial obligation to pay support does not entitle him to dictate how the mother spends the child support each month. Similarly, the mere fact that a soon-to-be-father is contributing to prenatal expenses does not entitle him to dictate how the pregnancy is handled or what prenatal expenses are incurred as a result.
It takes two people to make a child. Should it not take the same two people to take financial responsibility for their actions?