Whose surname should I give my child?

Margarette MACAULAY

Thursday, February 14, 2019

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I am currently pregnant and my child's father has denied that he is the father. I have already decided to solely be responsible for my child. However, I have been considering giving my child my last name at birth. I would like to know if this is possible and if so will this have any implication for my child in the future if the father decides to play a role, or for any other reason?

The answer to your question is yes, you can give the child your name when you report the birth to the registrar, assuming that you will be delivering your baby at a hospital. On the other hand, you could give the baby's father's name and address as the father at the time you report the birth. The Registrar General, under the Registration (Births and Deaths) Act, will send him notice of this fact, and if he does not communicate his denial of his paternity, he will appear on your child's birth records and birth certificate as your child's father and will bear his surname.

It is always best to include the father of the child in the birth records at the time the facts are taken from you after your delivery, because if you do not you are denying your child the right to the name he or she is entitled to have and the possibility of having a relationship with their father. Unless paternity is accepted or proved, your child cannot claim a familial relationship with him otherwise. If your child becomes very ill and needs his or her father's physical help for blood (say it's a rare blood type), for example, or an organ, this could also be problematic. Then despite any urgency for such help you would have to apply to the court for an order of paternity whereby a DNA test would be ordered and when the results show that he is indeed the father and the order is made, he would be inclined to accept his child and the obligations which come with fatherhood.

Your child has the right to have and know their father. You should not just accept his denial — as long as you are certain that he is the father, you must do what you can to ensure that your child obtains what he or she is entitled to legally and in the child's best interests. Your child also has the right to maintenance contributions from the father and, if he dies, to claim against his estate. You must try and give your child this.

I would therefore suggest that you can, as I suggested, give the father's name when you report your child's birth to the registrar, and if upon receiving the notice from the Registrar General he still denies the fact, you then take further action. This is that you apply to the Family Court for a declaration of paternity, custody, care and control and maintenance. Please take a certified copy or your child's birth certificate with you. A clerk of the court will assist you to draw up the application and arrange for the bailiff to serve him with the summons to attend court on the date fixed for the hearing. At the hearing, if he continues to deny his paternity, then a DNA test will be ordered and once the test is done and the results show that he is the father, the court will make the declaration of paternity and then go on to deal with the applications for custody (which you can ask to be sole to you or joint to you both), care and control to you, so you can look after your child from day to day, and agree to access for the father to his child. Then finally they will state what his contribution to your child's maintenance would be. You ought to work out how much it costs to provide the necessities of life for your child and ask for one half of the medical expenses.

As your baby grows older, the costs of maintenance will increase and you and the father could either agree on the necessary increase, or you can go back to the court and apply for a variation of the order of maintenance, so that your child obtains what is needed from both of the parents.

In this way, you will secure your child's future with the certainty of his or her father being a reality, but most important of all, you will give to your child the means to develop a real and proper relationship with his or her father. The matter will then be in your control and not based on the uncertainty of the father, in the future, deciding to pay a role in your child's life.

So do what you should do for your child to enjoy a less difficult future by using the avenues of the law to ensure the certainty of his or her father at as early an age as you can, and, thereby enable your child to grow up comfortably knowing who his or her father is and secure the means of having a relationship with him. This is much better for you child and yourself. So please act as I have suggested. This is in the best interests of 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 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.


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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