Dear Mrs Macaulay,
My 18-year-old daughter got pregnant and the father is not taking up his responsibility. Can she get support through the court for her unborn child?
I understand from your letter that your daughter is still pregnant and that she and the father-to-be are neither married nor in a common-law relationship — certainly, at 18 years of age, she could not in law qualify as a common-law spouse.
You see, under the Maintenance Act, it is married and common-law spouses who have a legal obligation to maintain each other and can apply under that Act for financial support. Since your daughter and the purported father-to-be are not married, then she would have to apply under the Status of Children Act to the family court or the Supreme Court for a declaration of paternity even before the birth of her child, pursuant to Section 10 (3) which was inserted by amendment to the Act in 2005.
At the time she makes her application for a declaration of paternity, she can also apply for him to assist with the expenses attached to her pregnancy. You see, once the court makes the declaration, he would then be obligated in law to provide support for the child as ordered by the court on an application for such support.
Your daughter, with your assistance, can go to the Family Court which serves the area where she lives, where she would be assisted by the designated clerk to complete and arrange the service of the documents on the purported father-to-be.
She would need to have, if possible, two witnesses to support her evidence and who can give evidence of the intimacy between her and the man during the period when she must have become pregnant. She should also have the information in monetary terms of how much she has been spending and will have to spend for medical requirements, check-ups, for the delivery, and all that is needed for her confinement in hospital and for the baby after the birth on a weekly or monthly basis.
This should be stated to the clerk as clearly as possible to put in your application and she should ask for a collection order to be made. This is to order him to pay the money into the court's office where it can be collected.
If you can afford a lawyer, it would be a good idea to get one. If not, the application can be done in person by your daughter herself and you can assist her throughout the process. The Family Court was set up, among other reasons, so that people who could not afford to pay lawyers can have access to justice there for family matters.
I hope I have clarified the matter for you and your daughter so that you both now understand how to proceed.
By the way, if she does get the declaration of paternity before the baby is born, you must make sure that you collect the order of the court (ask who it should be collected from and when) so that when she is reporting the birth at the hospital she can use it to ensure that the father's name and full particulars are placed on the record of the birth and that it will all thereafter appear on the birth certificate of her child.
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 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.