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According to many in the men's rights movement, a woman who, in any way, gets pregnant from a man will be able to get child support from him, which in most states is proportional to a man's wealth.

This is even if the man clearly didn't consent to have children.

For example, Drake once allegedly put Tabasco in a used condom to avoid fathering a child with a woman he doesn't want to have children with. Many say that if a woman successfully takes semen from a discarded condom and impregnates herself, then she is not punished, but the father would be forced to pay child support.

Is it true that there are no laws that protect men from non-consensual reproduction?

  1. The child is really his biologically
  2. The man consented to sex, but not to having children
  3. The woman did something non-consensual so that the man would impregnate her
  4. The woman is eligible for child support anyway

Jurisdiction? Any country you know.

In Indonesia, I know that a man can choose not to support any child. So I have never heard a case of stealthing against men. Of course, if the child is really the man's child and the sex is consensual and the child is not there due to malicious acts, quite often the man chooses to take care of the child anyway.

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    minor point, but typically child support is based on income, not wealth. Most men have no significant wealth to speak of. Those that are wealthy, and have no earned income still derive income from their wealth (typically). That would likely be used as a basis for child support in all but the most extreme cases.
    – Pete B.
    Apr 26 at 17:01
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    @PeteB In the U.S. child support guidelines are indirectly required by virtue of federal laws governing state eligibility for federal welfare funds to use a basically income based approach up to a threshold income (ca. 100K USD) after which judicial discretion applies. The incomes of both parents, percentage of parenting time measured by overnights per year, and extraordinary expenses of a child are all considered as is to a lesser extent the number of additional children of each parent.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 26 at 18:21
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Apr 27 at 1:31
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    "if a woman successfully takes semen from a discarded condom and impregnates herself" seems like it would be exceedingly difficult to prove that this occurred. Conversely, it would be relatively easy to prove the source of the semen that inseminated the mother.
    – Aron
    Apr 29 at 7:23
  • 1
    Inspired this related question - law.stackexchange.com/questions/79755/… Apr 30 at 10:39

4 Answers 4

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Is it true that men are forced to pay child support for children they didn't consent to having?

Yes.

This is true in every U.S. jurisdiction, in the U.K., and in every jurisdiction of which I am aware in the E.U., and it is the rule in many other jurisdictions.

The duty to pay child support in these jurisdictions flows from the relationship between the father and the child, and is not a contractual concept based upon consent.

The primary exceptions to this general rule are cases where a parental relationship is legally terminated (e.g., in connection with the adoption of a child born out of wedlock), and cases in which someone becomes a sperm donor in a statutorily authorized arrangement that generally does not involve sexual intercourse.

Historically, roughly speaking in the early 19th century, and earlier in English common law, and most other European and European-colonist jurisdictions, a man only had a duty to support the children of his wife or the children of his deceased former wife if he was a widower.

Even further back, in the Roman empire from which the foundations of Roman civil law were derived, a father had a right in his sole and absolute discretion to commit infanticide, killing his infant children, a right which was a major political issue in the Roman empire from sometime in the 100s CE until it collapsed.

Some jurisdictions, such as Japan, only established a legal duty to pay child support to a custodial parent in any circumstances in the late 20th century, although those jurisdictions still recognized the legal duty of a father to support a child in his custody.

It is also worth noting that women in every country of which I am aware have a duty to support the children to which they give birth, whether or not they consented to impregnation (e.g. even if they were raped), or to giving birth (e.g. even if they wanted an abortion but were denied access to abortion by law or otherwise). This support obligation persists in almost every case, even if the woman's child is in the custody of another parent or guardian, and a woman is much more likely to face criminal prosecution for failure to support her child than an uninvolved father (although criminal prosecutions of men for non-support do happen). So, the claim that this constitutes sex discrimination is ill-founded.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Apr 27 at 1:29
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    @AzorAhai-him- Any children he may have with women other than his wife
    – BThompson
    Apr 27 at 14:50
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    In Brazil, the support extends beyond just money. Parents (regardless of gender) are required to participate in the psychological formation of the child. The custodian also cannot forbid visitation, except if conditions also warrant a restraining order. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation#Brazil
    – Mindwin
    Apr 27 at 18:13
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    "It is also worth noting that women in every country of which I am aware have a duty to support the children to which they give birth, [...] So, the claim that this constitutes sex discrimination is ill-founded." No. Women who don't want to support a child to which they give birth can put them up for adoption.
    – FluidCode
    Apr 28 at 11:04
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    @FluidCode Adoption requires the consent of both parents if known.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 28 at 17:06
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A picture valid for most modern jurisdictions, common and civil law alike.

First, it is good to understand that the child support is owed to the child and not to their mother.

It may be the mother who manages the child support, but it is clear that the mother manages the funds as an implied trustee of a child and not as a beneficiary.

There are cases when both genetic parents are forced to pay child support for a child born by a surrogate mother and even more cases when the mother is forced to pay child support to a child who lives with the father.

The whole idea of the child support stems from the fact that the child is not an object owned by its parents, but a separate human being and even a citizen with its own rights, including, but not limited to, the right to get an adequate and responsible parental care until their adulthood.

The moment when the child becomes a human being with its own rights varies by jurisdiction and is either the moment of birth, the moment of conception or some other point in between.

The responsible parenting is owed by both parents and the obligation cannot be contractually altered or transferred to other parties because it does not emerge from a contract in the first place. The existence of a child alone implies the obligation.

This is much like the taxes - you owe them, period.

The rights of the child are legally protected to a higher extent and with a higher priority than almost whatever other rights the parents may have. This is because the child is considered a vulnerable member of the society.

The question of the intent (or lack thereof) of conceiving a child is so much minor in this context that it is almost never considered in the court proceedings.

This is a profound contrast to the penal proceedings where the intent is a central point. Being a parent is not a crime in itself, so the intent is not important. You are either a parent, or not - and the possible intent is only good as long as it helps determining your status as a parent.

The parenting obligation can be transferred by other means, e.g. by adoption, but the whole adoption concept is also shaped around the interests and the rights of the child.


In regard to the "consensual sex":

The traditional view of this thing is that both men and women engage in sexual intercourse with the clear knowledge that a conception is a possible outcome. Yes, it implies a great level of trust between the partners.

As much traditional is the understanding that a woman cannot escape the parental obligations, but a man can - because he can plausibly deny the fathership.

This possibility has never been a "men's right" in the first place, it was just that - a possibility to avoid fulfilling a legal and moral obligation.

It is no more that much easy because of the technological and the social advance and not because something happened to the "men's rights".

It is also not much of a discrimination - the obligation is for both parents and this was never really disputed.

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    "the obligation cannot be contractually altered or transferred to other parties because it does not emerge from a contract in the first place. The existence of a child alone implies the obligation." Good point. Matters related to children in a divorce, for example, usually can't be agreed to simply by stipulation of the parents without a judge finding that the settlement is also in the best interests of the children.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 27 at 23:42
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    While it's a great point that men always had the legal obligation to support children, it just wasn't as enforceable as it is today, so the law didn't change for them, it did however change (in many countries) for women, who got free access to abortion and the technology to get it safe, which was not true for women in the past. So women in those countries now have the right to opt out of supporting child they don't want (by aborting them), but men do not have such an option - seems like clear discrimination. Unless somewhere the father has equal right to decide to abort the baby?
    – johnyu
    Apr 28 at 18:25
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    @johnyu valid point - to an extent. Just like the biology of reproduction is discriminatory. The abortion (even in the developed world) implies risks only for the mother. The pregnancy and the breastfeeding are burden as well (in some languages the words for pregnancy and burden are the same or almost the same).
    – fraxinus
    Apr 28 at 20:27
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    @fraxinus I can't agree with burden of post-birth care being relevant here. Partially because while woman early on has to focus on the newborn, the father will usually have his own burden of now having to care, or at least financially sustain not just himself, but also two other people: the mother and the child. Comparing these different burdens would be like comparing apples to oranges, but the main reason post-birth doesn't seem relevant is because the discussion is about opting out of having that burden - in countries with abortion women can opt out, but men can't.
    – johnyu
    Apr 29 at 14:18
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    The risks of abortion surely are important though, and those are likely going to be lowered with time. However as a general rule the law for example forbids employers from different treatment of employees due to some aspects of biology being discriminatory. You can't legally pay a woman less than a man just because you expect her to stop working for a long time due to pregnancy. So if in this case employers are forced to ignore biological differences in order to have both sexes be treated equally, why in the case we're discussing should we use unequal treatment, if both are due to same thing?
    – johnyu
    Apr 29 at 14:54
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As fraxinus said, child support is not supporting the mother, it's supporting the child. This is an obligation that, at least generally in western jurisdictions, both parents have. If, for whatever reason, the father gets to raise the child without the mother being involved, the mother will have to pay child support just in the same way that the father does in the other case, so, no gender discrimination here.

However, there are cases in Germany, where a parent can sue "someone" for the cost of supporting a child. There have been cases when people have had offspring after being (voluntarily, but unsuccessfully) sterilized in a clinic, and successfully sued the clinic for damages. This was quite controversial (do basic human rights permit to equate the birth of a child with "damage") at first, but the German constitutional court ruled that, while the birth itself can never be "damage", the resulting financial obligation can, so, the clinic had to pay "child support".

Link (in German): https://www.anwalt24.de/fachartikel/gesundheit-und-arzthaftung/4212

If negligence can lead to the obligation to pay "child support", criminal intent can possibly as well, even though I know of no such cases. So it would be interesting what happens if the pregnancy results from a criminal act by one parent. I wasn't able to find any such cases. Rape is different insofar as the victim gets awarded damages for the act itself, but an abortion after a rape is easily obtainable in Germany, so the decision to carry the child to term is not one the rapist forces on the mother.

Proving that sperm was obtained, in a criminal way, against the will of the father, won't be easy in any case. And note that this does not negate the father's obligation to child support - it only might give the father a way to sue the mother for compensation. If the mother has no seizable income, the father will still be on the hook.

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  • The clinic is simply penalized for doing a sloopy work. This is different.
    – fraxinus
    Apr 27 at 14:19
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    I recall hearing about one case in which the father consented to oral sex, with the understanding that no child would result, but the mother saved the resulting... material and proceeded to inseminate herself, resulting in a pregnancy for which the father had to pay child support. Since this happened in the US, the father then proceed to sue the mother for various causes of action, most of which were dismissed on the grounds that the... material was a "gift." However, he did prevail on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.
    – Kevin
    Apr 27 at 21:44
  • Suits like the one against the clinic are sometimes called "wrongful life" suits in the U.S., but I suspect that even in Germany this would not generalize to a suit involving "stealthing".
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 27 at 23:40
  • @Kevin Do you have a reference to the case? It is would be interesting to review.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 28 at 17:30
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    @ohwilleke: Unfortunately not, I did look for it but I can't recall exactly where I found it.
    – Kevin
    Apr 28 at 19:45
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The question is a bit awkward. Partners don't consent to having a child - that's a biological process. Partners consent (or not) to having sex, and to the terms under which it takes place (such as, types of birth control or not). Note that birth control does not prevent pregnancy; it just reduces the likelihood.

So you have three different possible scenarios.

  • Both partners consented to sex, and adhered to the terms, which then resulted in a pregnancy. Regardless of the use of birth control, and regardless of whether the pregnancy was intended, the outcome will (usually) be the same. Note that in most jurisdictions the option of legal abortion does not change this; abortion is strictly the woman's decision (whether it should be that way is of course a matter of ongoing debate, and has been for decades).
  • Both partners consented to sex, but the woman (as per the question - no sexism implied) failed to adhere to the terms ("stealthing"). Depending on jurisdiction, that may become a criminal matter.
  • The man didn't consent to sex at all. This is rape and a criminal matter (and, yes, while most of the time women are the victims of rape, men can be, too).

Ultimately, in all of these cases, before you talk about child support, you need to talk about child custody. If the father gets custody, usually he will not have to pay child support (but of course will have to support the child). And he may even be able to demand child support from the mother.

Who gets custody is a question that will vary very much with jurisdiction. As a very general rule of thumb, if everything was consensual, odds are that either the mother will get custody, or there will be joint custody. In the last two cases, if he can prove it, the father may have a stronger case for getting custody - but it may also mean having to pursue this case criminally.

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    The best interests of the child standard, generally speak, bars consideration of issues like the means of conception, absent specific legislation to the contrary (many jurisdictions have done this in cases of rapists, but no parallel "stealthing" legislation exists.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 28 at 17:29
  • @ohwilleke this "best of the interest of the child" standard is very much a case-by-case evaluation. That's why I said the father may have to pursue this case criminally simply to demonstrate that granting him custody is in the best interest of the child. Of course, the other side of the coin is that, implied by the question, the father didn't want the child in the first place, and the mother did. That type of situation is why family law is often so messy. Apr 29 at 17:30

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