Affiliation order – a single woman’s claims on the father of her child

What is an affiliation order?

Affiliation orders were the manner by which a single mother could compel the so-called putative or alleged father of her child to pay support. The order was requested by the mother who was required to make a declaration stating that the man subject to the order was the father of her child.

Given the state of paternity testing then (virtually non-existent), the existence of an affiliation order did not affirm the fact that the man was indeed the father. It was adjudged, on the basis of whatever evidence the woman provided, that the man was probably the father.

During that time, the burden of proof, chasing down the father and collecting payment from him was the sole jurisdiction of the mother. Later the process eased somewhat with the appointment of collectors charged with collecting the payments.

Nowadays, most men admit to the paternity of a child since it would be futile to deny it in this age of DNA analysis. This has eased the problem women previously faced of the burden of proof being on them. Affiliation orders were accordingly abolished by the Family Law Reform Act 1987 (FLRA 1987).

What are the single woman’s claims on the father?

Nowadays, once paternity is proven, a single woman may request a maintenance order which orders the non-custodial parent to share the costs of maintaining the child with the custodial parent.

It is usually preferable to make arrangements with respect to support outside the courts, but if there is disagreement over the amount payable, for example, it may be necessary to enlist the assistance of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).

The CMS can:

  • try to find the other parent if the custodial parent doesn’t know where they live, to sort out child maintenance;
  • sort out disagreements about parentage;
  • work out how much child maintenance should be paid;
  • arrange for the parent who doesn’t have main day-to-day care of the child to pay child maintenance;
  • pass payments on to the parent who has main day-to-day care of the child;
  • look at the payments again when changes in parents’ circumstances are reported;
  • review the payment amount every year;
  • take action if payments aren’t made.

How does the CMS work out payments?

  • When assessing how much maintenance the non-custodial parent (the paying parent) should pay, the CMS will:
  • work out the income of the paying parent from information supplied by hm revenue and customs (HMRC), as well as any benefits they receive;
  • examine the factors which affect the gross income (eg, pension payments) and then convert the yearly gross income into a weekly figure;
  • apply the relevant child maintenance rates based on the gross weekly income of the paying parent;
  • take into account the number of children the paying parent has to pay child maintenance for;
  • when a paying parent’s child stays overnight with them during the week, the cms will makes a deduction to the weekly child maintenance amount based on the average number of ‘shared care’ nights a week.

What if the parent is no longer in the UK?

Maintenance orders are enforceable in several countries worldwide where the UK has a reciprocal agreement. This is done using a document called REMO (reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders).

Remedies in case of non-payment of maintenance orders?

Remedies where a paying parent refuses to pay include:

  • With the help of the CSA or the court, arrangements can be made with the employer of the non paying parent to withhold a certain amount from their wages for the maintenance.
  • If the non paying parent owns a property, a charge can be put a charge on the property so that if it is sold, the custodial parent will receive proceeds from the sale.
  • Should the non paying parent have assets or money with third parties, these can likewise be garnished by court order to pay for the maintenance.
Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.