Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Down memory lane

I’ve been pondering for some time doing the occasional post about changes I’ve seen in family law since that fateful day 25-plus years ago when I first wielded my Dictaphone in anger. Since then there have been many changes (and much has stayed the same), but I’ll begin with something which, unusually, has been completely consigned to history: the affiliation order.

Affiliation orders, with their roots in the bastardy laws, required the ‘putative father’ to pay maintenance for an illegitimate child. Note the words ‘putative father’, rather than simply ‘father’, ‘putative’ meaning ‘reputed’ – i.e. an affiliation order was not proof of paternity (despite this the existence of an order was an exception to the rule that a child support officer could not make an assessment where the alleged father disputed paternity). I’ve long since discarded any text books I had on the subject, but my recollection of the way it worked was that the mother had to adduce evidence which corroborated her allegation that the respondent was the father of her child. Such corroboration usually took the form of an old-fashioned (i.e. non-DNA fingerprinting) blood test which (if memory serves me correctly) could prove that the respondent was not the father, but not whether he was. Once it was established that the respondent was the putative father, the court moved on to determine how much he should pay.

Affiliation proceedings were abolished by the Family Law Reform Act 1987. I remember somewhat selfishly being disappointed by this – for about the first time in my career a (albeit small) body of law that I had learned and practised would be of no more use to me.

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