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"If you have a one-night stand, yes, you're consenting to fatherhood."

‘My one night stand is still costing me.’

That was the headline of a recent story for News Corp, about a man named Patrick, who met a woman on Facebook in 2010, slept with her, and found out 12 weeks later she was pregnant. “There’s something seriously wrong with this outdated system,” he said, referring to the child support he was ordered to pay for a son he’s never met. “I’ve given up.”

The story was told with the aim of showing that Australian law, which requires a biological father pay child support until a child is 18, is flawed.

“I felt like she’d planned it,” Patrick said, referring to the moment his one night stand told him she was pregnant.

Patrick thinks current child support schemes don’t make sense in “modern society where many relationships don’t last”. He doesn’t believe he should be paying for this child. He says a huge number of second relationships fail because of the pressure of child support issues.

Now, consider Jenny.

Jenny is an anecdote – I haven’t sighted legal documents that support Jenny’s story, and Jenny isn’t here to tell her story in her own words.

But we all know a Jenny.

Listen: This single mum teaches women to get smart about money. Post continues after audio. 

Jenny was married in her late twenties and had four children. When her youngest was two, her partner left. Let’s call him Bob. Bob entered a relationship with another woman.

From the moment Bob left, Jenny has struggled to get Bob to provide fair child support payments. When she needs before and after school care because she’s working full time, Bob refuses to contribute. He isn’t forced to, because according to the Child Support Agency (CSA) it doesn’t “directly benefit” him.

When her eldest wants to play soccer, Jenny pays for the fees, the uniform, the oranges at half time, and the petrol to get him there. Same goes for piano lessons, tutoring, and private schooling if she wants it for her kids.

Jenny has to go to court a number of times to challenge Bob’s refusal to pay for certain aspects of his children’s upbringing. It’s painstaking and time-consuming, and has nothing to do with financial hardship on Bob’s side. He just genuinely doesn’t feel that these kids are his responsibility. He has a new family now.

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Bob isn't representative of all ex-partner's that are required to pay child support. Not even close. Countless men willingly provide child support payments with no issues, and many even offer more. Every day, there are men who are good fathers to their children, even when they're no longer with their children's mother.

But there are more Bob's than there are Patrick's. There are far more women than men being financially disadvantaged by caring for children when a father isn't present.

A woman falling pregnant from a one night stand is statistically quite rare. But even when we ignore the fact that Patrick's story is the story of very few people, making it odd for him to draw broad conclusions about men and child support, it still sends a scary message about men's responsibility when it comes to children.

Yes, Patrick should have to pay child support for a child he's never met. He had sex with a woman, which he knows could result in pregnancy. It takes two people to make a baby, and why should she have to raise one with no support from the other consenting party?

Patrick wrote that he said to the woman, "you need to have a serious think about what you’re doing. Think about the ramifications for both of us, long term".

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And in that comment lies the truth about pregnancy and responsibility.

When a woman becomes pregnant, it's not possible for her to shirk responsibility completely. When it's unplanned, she has to make the unimaginably tough decision to either terminate the pregnancy, or have the baby. Either way, she's irreparably impacted by becoming pregnant in the first place.

I would hazard a guess that this woman did have a 'serious think' about the situation. And she chose to keep the child - a decision she had the right to make.

Like Patrick, a one night stand is still 'costing' her, but like many mums, I doubt she thinks of it that way. For the rest of her life, she's responsible for another person. It'll affect her finances, relationships, and decisions not just until the child is 18 - but forever.

The story could easily have been written from the perspective of the woman, with the headline: 'My one night stand ended with me being a single mother for life.'

Patrick asking us to "recognise the impact this is having on men’s lives" is like asking people to consider racism faced by white people. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the bigger picture.

In 2017, in all parts of the world, women take more responsibility for children than men, whether they're single, divorced or married. The social framework that sees women this way is the real "outdated system" - not the one that asks for men to financially support their children.

It's a cultural artifact that desperately needs to shift if women are to go some way towards achieving equality.

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