Rise of the Tinder babies: parental responsibility and paternity
“Tinder Baby: A child birthed from the act of sexual intercourse between two people who met each other through the popular dating app, Tinder.”
Inspired by recent cases, Managing Director Rita Gupta explains the legal ramifications arising from a Tinder relationship. What may be just a ‘casual fling’ may lead to legal obligations not envisaged or in some cases not wanted, when suddenly ‘no strings’ turns into ‘new baby’.
Swipe right for romance?
When the dating app Tinder launched in 2012, it made choosing a date as easy as moving your finger across a screen, and to ‘swipe right’. Millions of people downloaded the app looking for love, romance, a new soul mate - or a casual fling. By 2014, Tinder was recording about one billion ‘swipes’ every day, with users spending up to 90 minutes a day viewing profiles. In 2019, Tinder had over 5.2million subscribers.
Dating site babies
It was inevitable that from such an informal and instant way to date, a new generation would be literally born, the ‘dating-site babies’. Within weeks of meeting a new partner via the app, some women were making that difficult phone call to a person they barely knew to say, “I’m pregnant”. As a newspaper article said:
“While technology makes it easy to ditch an unsuitable date and move on, it’s not quite so easy to swipe away a baby.”
New life, new responsibilities
For mothers who choose to keep their Tinder baby, and for those babies’ fathers too, it marks the start of longstanding ties between them. It is a long-term commitment regardless of where your actual relationship is heading. The welfare of your child should be at the heart of all decisions you make, whether together or separate. You break with an ex, not a child.
As a family lawyer, I see first-hand the ramifications of unplanned, unexpected and unwanted pregnancies as a result of casual liaisons. There are major legal issues that need discussing and resolving, including:
- Parental responsibility
- Confirming paternity (or not)
- The legal rights of the father
- Living arrangements / child arrangements
- Financial responsibility and child maintenance
I’ve detailed some of these issues below, but if you’d prefer to talk through your particular situation, either as the mother or the father, do call us. It’s wise to talk to a professional as well as family or friends when trying to decide the next step, so you are aware of the legal implications. Do not wait until the baby is born. The sooner you call, the sooner your rights can be established and action taken to protect the welfare of your child.
Legal rights and parental responsibility
As a biological parent, you have specific legal rights, AND a duty of ‘parental responsibility’ to look after your child.
- Mothers automatically have parental responsibility
- A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother, or is named on the birth certificate
- Unmarried fathers do not have automatic parental responsibility, and neither do step-parents or grandparents
In most cases fathers will have parental responsibility or can easily acquire it by way of an agreement or a court order. Unless there are compelling reasons, the courts are unlikely to refuse it. However, what many fathers fail to realise is that the responsibility to financially maintain a child and pay child maintenance will still apply - whether you like it or not.
Fathers without parental responsibility
This is important. You cannot simply walk away from the responsibility of your baby. Regardless of whether you want to be involved with your child or not, legally you are responsible for financially supporting your child. Saying that the Tinder date and subsequent sexual encounter was “just a bit of fun with no strings attached” won’t stand up in court.
If you are not sure if the baby is actually yours, you can take a paternity test. This scientific test compares the DNA of a parent and a child, to see if they are related. Paternity tests provide independent scientific proof that can be used when applying for child contact and resolving disputes about child maintenance.
If there is genuinely a doubt that you are the father, then discuss this with a family law solicitor early on. Do ensure that you query paternity wisely. These tests are conclusive and if it comes back positive, it can permanently damage your relationship with the mother. The Child Maintenance Service can also order absent fathers to take a test. As always, take a child centred approach.
Fathers and unborn babies
You may want to be involved with the mother throughout her pregnancy and beyond, but in law, a father has no rights towards an unborn child. You have no rights to contact the mother, or make any decisions regarding the pregnancy. Your child’s mother does not need your consent to receive medical treatment, travel abroad, or end her pregnancy.
As the father, however, you need the consent of the mother to:
- Access medical records concerning the pregnancy
- Attend a medical appointment alongside the mother
- Be present for baby scans
- Be present at the birth
- Get notified of the birth
- Visit the mother and baby in a hospital after birth
Fathers and parental responsibility
If you want to be part of your new child’s life once it is born, you can apply for parental responsibility by:
- Jointly registering the birth
- Making a parental responsibility agreement with your child’s mother
If the mother won’t register you, you can apply to a court for a Parental Responsibility Order (England and Wales only). Be aware that the mother of your child can contest this Order, and then it will be up to a court to decide.
Shared parental responsibility
Parents do not have to live together to share responsibility for looking after their child. However, shared parental responsibility does not give the non-resident an automatic right to child contact. This can lead to tensions between parents who lead separate lives, but still need to agree on major decisions regarding schooling, health, and where the child will live.
There are ways to make these decisions easier and less stressful. At LGFL, we have extensive experience in helping separated parents draw up Child Arrangement agreements. If you can’t agree, we can apply for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order on your behalf and let the court decide what’s best for your child.
Family law with a personal touch
At LGFL, we always put the interests of children at the heart of everything we do, for a bespoke solution to your unique set of circumstances. So whether you’re facing the unexpected legal challenges of a dating app pregnancy, or are struggling with maternity or paternity rights, call us. We offer an empathetic and pragmatic approach based on decades of experience. Nothing will shock us or surprise us.