Do I have to involve the birth father and what are his rights?
For some women the decision about an unplanned pregnancy may be determined by the kind of relationship they want children to have with their father. For other women this may not be important, particularly if they have a lot of family support, or if they have parented on their own before and know their capacity to do so.
The rights and responsibilities of parents are governed by the Commonwealth Family Law Act (1975). This act has the best interests of the child at its centre. More information is available at Australian Government Attorney General’s Department website.
When parents of a child under 18 separate or were never in a relationship, they still both have parental responsibility for the child, subject to any court order. Parental responsibility differs from equal time. Parental responsibility relates to decisions affecting the child as well as the costs of raising the child irrespective of contact or custody.
It is generally thought to be in the interests of the child for the biological father to be involved in the life of the child so he has the right to be involved if he chooses to be, unless a court decides otherwise. If there have been issues of violence and abuse by him and you are concerned about your safety and the safety and wellbeing of any child that results from your pregnancy, it is important to seek legal advice even before the birth.
If you rely on Centrelink for any income maintenance while you are parenting you will be required to disclose the identity of the father of the child and this information will be passed on to the Child Support Agency. The Child Support Agency will use a formula approved under Australian law to make sure the costs of parenting are equitable between both birth parents, and will make an assessment of the amount of child support you should pay to or receive from the birth father. The amount of payments you should receive for child support may affect your entitlements to income maintenance from Centrelink. More information is available at Department of Human Services website.