Legal - CBA Law Info - CBA Law UK


A single woman's claims on the fatherofherchild
When a single woman is pregnant or has given birth to an illegitimate child she may enter into an agreement with the child's father that he is to pay her a regular amount of money to maintain the child.
If the father will not agree, the mother may apply to a magistrates' court for an affiliation order - an order that affiliates or associates the father


  • The father and mother of an illegit-imate child may agree to the father's maintaining the child by paying the mother a regular sum of money.
  • Ideally, the agreement should be in writing and be drafted by a solicitor. The National Council for One Parent Families produces a standard agreement form. Its address is 255 Kentish Town Road, London
  • If the father later refuses payment, the mother will more easily be able to get the agreement enforced by a court.
  • When an agreement is not written, The mother has to give the same evidence in court as she would in proceedings for an affiliation order.
  • Whether the mother takes action to enforce the agreement in a county court or the High Court depends on the amount of payment. If it is more than �2,000, apply to the High Court.
  • An agreement does not prevent the mother from applying to a magistrates' court later for an affiliation order even if the agreement specifically releases the father from any other payment. But the court would take into account the amount that the father was already paying.

The application is usually made by the mother; or by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, if the mother receives social security benefits for the child; or by the local authority, if it is caring for the child.
Now to apply for an affiliation order

Go to the local magistrates' court and issue a 'complaint' against the alleged father as soon as possible, either before the child is born or within 3 years of its birth. The application must be made within this time unless the alleged father maintains the child for any time within 3 years of its birth, when there is no time limit for making the complaint.

If he leaves England and Wales within 3 years of the birth, the complaint must be issued within 12 months of his return. The court can make an order against an alleged father living in Scotland or Northern Ireland only if conception is claimed to have taken place in England or Wales.

If the child was born abroad, an application can still be made to an English or Welsh magistrates' court, provided that the mother, child and alleged father are in England or Wales when proceedings are started.

The hearing of the application

The hearing is in private before a court of no more than three magistrates of both sexes. The press can be present, but reporting is restricted. See: MATRIMONIAL ORDER
Proceedings may take place without the attendance of the defendant, if the magistrates are satisfied that he has been properly notified of the place and date of the hearing. If the defendant admits he is the father of the child, and the amount to be paid by him has been agreed, the mother does not have to appear and the order is made without difficulty.
But in contested cases where the defendant denies that he is the father, the mother will probably have to give evidence about her first meeting with the defendant and about the occasions when they had sexual intercourse - in particular those that took place around the probable time of conception.


When affiliation proceedings are con-tested and the man denies that he is the father, the cant may make a decision based on the balance of probabilities.
In a case in London in 1976 a lawyer was accused by an assistant with whom he had been having an affair of being the father of her child. The issue was complicated by the fact that on the night when, according to medical evidence, the woman was in the period of maximum fertility. another colleague said that he had spent the night with her, though she denied that intercourse had taken place.


The magistrates found the lawyer to be the father, even though he had not had inTercourse with the woman for 2 weeks before, and never after. the date of maximum fertility. He was ordered to maintain the child fully.
After giving evidence, the mother may be cross-examined by the defen-dant or his legal representative. She will then call any witnesses who can support her case � anyone to whom the defen-dant has admitted he is the father of the child, for example.
Before the court can make an affilia-tion order, some material part of the mother's evidence, for example that she has been on intimate terms with the defendant, must be corroborated. This may be done by the defendant's own admission that he had sexual inter-course with the mother about the prob-able date of conception; or there may be evidence such as affectionate letters written by the defendant to the mother or admissions of intimacy made by the defendant to third parties.
The defendant then gives evidence and calls his witnesses. If it is shown that the mother has had intercourse with another man during the probable period of conception, she will not usually obtain an affiliation order unless she can convince the court that contraceptives were used with the other man but not with the defendant or that there is some other reason why the other man could not be the father.


In contested proceedings evidence obtained from BLOOD TESTS may also be given. They cannot prove that the defendant is the father, although they can prove that he is not. The court may order blood samples to he taken from the defendant and the mother and child, but it cannot enforce this order. However, if either party refuses to take the test, the court may draw the inference that he or she fears the result of the test.

What the order says
If the mother proves her case, the court will make a finding that the defen-dant is the 'putative father' (meaning the supposed father) of the child and may make an affiliation order under which he will have to pay for the ex-penses of the child's birth and a weekly sum for the maintenance and education of the child.

If the application is made within 2 months of the birth of the child, main-tenance money is payable from the date of birth. If it is made later than 2 months after the birth, it is payable from the date of the hearing.
Maintenance must usually be paid until the child reaches the age of 16. but can be extended to 18 or beyond if the child is receiving full-time education or training.
How much? In theory a court can make an affiliation order for an amount. In practice it takes account of the income and capital of both the mother and the defendant and tries to make an order sufficient to maintain the child at the parents' standard of living.

The money must be paid regularly to the clerk of the magistrates' court, who will normally send the money on to the mother. If the father fails to pay, the mother or the clerk can bring him before the court, and an attachment of EARNINGS order Can he made.
However, if the mother is already receiving supplementary benefits for the child she can ask for the affiliation order payments to be made direct to the Supplementary Benefits Commission. The advantage of this is that if the man defaults on his payments it is up to the commission to recover the arrears and the mother will continue to receive the same amount each week. If a local authority is caring for the child the payments must be made to the authority. Getting an order changed If the father's or mother's means change substantially after the order has been made, I either can apply to the original court to have the amount altered.
If the child is adopted, the affiliation order ceases, although the father is still liable to pay up any arrears. However, even if the mother marries a man able to support her and her child, the father must nevertheless maintain his payments though they may he reduced.

Appealing against the court's decision
The mother or putative father may appeal to the crown court against the magistrates decision but not against the amount of the order. If the mother obtains fresh evidence after her application for an affiliation order has been dismissed, she may make a second application. Either party can also appeal against an order varying the amount.

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