US Army dad denying paternity of Jamaican child

All Woman

DEAR MRS MACAULAY,

I have a child belonging to a US Army soldier who is a born Jamaican. I live here in Jamaica and he visits Jamaica. My child is also Jamaican-born. The father has started to dispute paternity. I advised him from my pregnancy to do a DNA test, which he refused. I don't know how to move forward. I'm not sure if the court here would order his mother to give a relative's paternity test and also how I would proceed to get him to do the DNA testing when he is located in the USA.

It is always very sad and concerning when a putative father not only denies paternity, but refuses to do a DNA test to confirm his status. One is then left with the question, what is such a man afraid of that he refuses to take a test which has the highest probability of certainty? One generally would conclude in such circumstances that it is because he knows or very strongly suspects that he is the father of the child and he does not want the legal or moral responsibility to provide support for the child and participate in the general care of that child.

You say he started disputing his paternity even during your pregnancy. You also say that he visits Jamaica but you have not indicated whether he does so at about the same time every year. Do you not know where he is in the USA — that is, at which army camp he is stationed?

The only way that he can be ordered to take a DNA test is by you being granted a court order to that effect. This can only be done if you apply for a declaration of paternity, and I would suggest that you add not only a claim for a maintenance order, but also an order granting you custody, care and control of your child, and a fair order for access to him.

You will need his address both here and in the USA for him to be served with your application, or you can be granted an order to serve him by way of substituted service, through his mother and/or by advertisement in a national newspaper here and there. You would have to apply for personal service to be dispensed with and for both or either of the different means of substituted service to be used. But first, it must be ascertained what state in the USA he actually resides in, because the orders of our courts are only effective in the states in the USA which have a reciprocal agreement with Jamaica for the enforcement of each other's orders and judgments.

You can, of course, also get your application prepared for hearing in court during one of his periods of visits to Jamaica. If this is done, our immigration department must be informed, if this service is done successfully, so that he does not leave the island before the hearing date, especially if he resides in the USA in a non-reciprocal state. The ascertaining of his parenthood as a fact is the most important thing for your child and on which rests the possibility of the making of your custody, care and control and maintenance orders against him.

You may also consider making contact with his Company Commander in the US Army, but this you should consider very deeply before you take this course of action as it may have serious repercussions against him and his future in the US Army.

I have given you possibilities, but you must remember that an order cannot be made against a family member of his unless you make the necessary applications to the court. Such an order may be made by a court which is satisfied that the father is intentionally doing all he can to avoid his possible legal and moral responsibilities.

But you must go to the Family Court in your parish, take a certified copy of your child's birth certificate, and tell the clerk of court who is the intake officer the full facts, and that you want to apply for the declaration and orders I have stated. Also, tell the clerk that you want the mother to be ordered to do the DNA test if the alleged father cannot be reached and/or he lives in a non-reciprocal state. The clerk needs to be told everything clearly and properly, so he or she can decide what can best be done in the circumstances and in the best interests of your child. It is your child's fundamental right to know and have a relationship with both parents, and the child is entitled to have his or her name and to be maintained and cared for by both parents.

So please go to the Family Court in your parish where you will receive assistance with the preparation of your applications, at no cost to you. Please do this as quickly as you can, so that your application is not delayed too long to the detriment of your child.

I wish you both the very best.

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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