How do I protect my son from his vulture father?

Margarette MACAULAY

Monday, June 10, 2019

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Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I wrote to you previously, as I am trying to get sole custody of my son. I had indicated to you that what I really wanted was complete termination of parental rights for my son's father. I took the advice you gave and I applied for custody, care and control. I return to court in two months for what, I hope, will be the final time.

My follow-up question is this, when I'm granted custody, care and control, will my son's father be able to sue my son for parental maintenance in his old age? How do I protect my son from his vulture of a father, who will no doubt try to prey on my son when he has grown into a successful man? Does my having custody, care and control prevent him from trying to milk the son he never cared for?

For some background, my son's biological father has not been a part of his life in any way since we parted ways. My son is now 11, and my ex has been missing since my son was about four. My current partner has been a father to my son for the past six years, way more than the biological father. When I broke up with my ex, he tried to kill me, and he basically said I would never be safe as long as I wasn't in a relationship with him. I can't even list half of the crazy things he's done.

Please advise me, as best as you can, on how to free both myself and my son from my ex. Thanks in advance.

I hope you obtain your order for sole custody, care and control of your son, which you have applied for. I assume that the biological father did not respond or attend court to make any answer to your application. Based on your worry for the future of your child, which I shall comment on later, I trust that you will not accede to any attempt to have your son be made available to the biological father, who you say has made no attempt to contact him since your relationship ended some seven plus years ago.

In addition, you have implied that there was violence in your relationship with the man, and that he tried to kill you at your parting. This is therefore an additional reason that such a person is not granted any access to the child — because even though he may not, at the time, have directed his violence to the child himself, the fact that he was violent to you, with and where the child was present, makes that child also a victim of that violence. He ought not to be allowed access to the child, save after intensive counselling over a period of time and it is concluded that he is rehabilitated.

I am somewhat bemused at your seeming certainty that in the event of your son becoming a successful man, this man would, when old, prey on your son and go to the extent of applying for orders that your son should provide maintenance for him. I am not sure how you think you can protect your son so far in the future from a mere possibility.

You are also making assumptions that your son may not wish to, and may not, in his adulthood, find his biological father and establish a relationship with him. Surely, your son will make up his own mind, when he is a man, about what he wishes to do about his biological father. He may do nothing because he does not remember him at all and the man never made any contact with him, as far as he is concerned, throughout his life. This is, if you do not keep talking about the biological father to him, critically or otherwise, and thereby keep him constantly in your son's mind.

You must, of course, answer your son's questions about him honestly, if he asks any, and if he does not, you may decide to let sleeping dogs lie.

You and your son have been safe from this man for more than seven years, despite his threat that you would not be safe as long as you are not in a relationship with him. You and your son seem to have been and are still in a stable and happy relationship with another man, who is a real parental father figure in your son's life. I would suggest that after you obtain sole custody, care and control of your son, that you focus your mind and attention on your current lives and ensure that you continue to have happy lives together. Do not allow your ex to occupy your mind at all or any thought about extreme possibilities, which may or may not occur in the uncertainty of all your futures.

I say this because though a parent can, in law, apply for maintenance from his or her children, there is no certainty that this will ever happen or that he will succeed in his claim. There are decided cases of refusals of such applications.

I, quite frankly, think that you are worrying too much about an outside possibility that someone may be alive, in need, and will think of a long-forgotten son and go to court to obtain maintenance from him. Additionally, you are also assuming that your son may not decide to willingly assist him if he is in need.

Your son may not even be in the country at such a possible time. The father may not also be there. Unless you decide to change your son's name by Deed Poll during his minority to ensure that he is never found by his biological father in the future — and remember that your son would have the right to change his name back to the original if he so chooses — I really have no idea what you can do to protect him from something which is an extreme outside possibility.

Please stop worrying about something you think may happen in the distant future and focus on your present lives together. Get your order for sole custody, care and control of your son and go about ensuring that he has a happy, stable and secure life. He will be alright in his future life, once you have instilled in him the proper standards of conduct, respect for women and others, honesty of purpose, et cetera, which would enable him to face whatever challenges he encounters as an adult male with integrity. So, do stop worrying.

Good luck to you all.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com ; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.


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