Dear Mrs Macaulay,
My babymother left me when she was six months pregnant. For quite a while she tried her best to convince me that the child was not mine and that I should forget about it and move on. I made contact with her relatives far and wide to talk some sense into her, but she convinced them that she was raped somewhere along the line and I was not the father. I never once bought into her deceit as I knew the child was mine based on the ultrasound information and basic common sense.
Nonetheless, a few years passed and I saw photos of the child, who is the dead stamp of me. Even though the physical resemblance was too striking to deny, the mother stuck to her story. I decided to engage the services of an attorney. I won the court case and the judge ordered that the child should get her rightful and legal name, which is my surname, and that in return I should get my parental rights. Despite all of this, the mother is still depriving the child of her human rights and heritage. I live overseas, and whenever I plan on visiting the island I make it known that the child should be with me. Despite the fact that this child and I eventually developed an unshakable bond, the mother continues to make things difficult by refusing me access.
The child started kindergarten last year, and I paid her school fees and covered all other expenses. Similarly, I have been sending her maintenance money on a monthly basis, except for January of this year, since her mother denied me access to her for the Christmas season. My question to you is, should I continue to send the mother maintenance money or should I reapply to the court for full custody and await the outcome?
Thank you for your letter and what you stated in it, which demonstrates how committed and determined you were and continue to be up to the present day, to be a real father to your child.
The answer to the first part of your question is that you must continue to send the maintenance monies for your child. If you do not, then you will be in breach of your legal obligation to maintain your child. You cannot deny the child her right to be maintained because her mother denied you your right of access. Your remedy is to report her breach to the court where your paternity was declared and the order of your access was made.
You did not state the details of your access order in your letter but I have assumed, as is normally the case, that the judge did make a clear access order with the periods and manner of your access specified therein, because I cannot imagine that your lawyer did not include an application for access for you in your original application. If this was not so, or even if this was so, as the child gets older you have the right to, and you can apply to the court for the existing order to be varied.
It seems that you see and spend time with your daughter whenever you visit Jamaica, because you say that you always make this fact known to the mother and that the child ought to be with you.
As I said, you should apply for a variation of the existing order, and if you do not now share custody of the child with the mother, apply for you both to have 'joint custody' of your child. This would entitle you to being a party to all important decisions about the child's development in life. Then you should also ask for access to be varied, so that she can spend clearly stated periods with you – for example, that you should have her for residential access every other Christmas and Easter school holidays and one-half of her summer holiday, and that you also have access to her via Skype and/or telephone on specified days and times each week when she is with her mother.
Every detail, period, time arrangement for pick-up and return should be specified and set in the court order, as well as the full details of your maintenance contributions, because when your child is with you for a goodly period you should not have to pay general maintenance contributions, but your obligation for educational, medical, dental and optical expenses would be continuous.
I trust that I have clarified the situation for you. Please ensure that you return to court to get your order varied, so that your child's mother will be forced to abide by strict and clear orders about your access to your child. With such a mother, you have no choice but to ensure that she has no room to wiggle out of ensuring that you have your full rights as clearly specified in a court order. If she breaches any term/s of the order, then she would be in breach and may be found guilty of contempt of court.
Enjoy your fatherhood, and may God bless you and your child.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
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.