Grand-aunt wants help with child care
Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I am the grand-aunt of a 10 year old child. Both parents are alive; her mother is my niece. I have had her living with me since she was approximately seven months old. I do not have legal guardianship of her.
Before she was born, her father denied paternity and refused to stand by her mother. I stepped in and did what I could to help her mother. After she was born, her father's family convinced him that she was his. Her mother is not employed presently. Her father is a police officer and his contribution to his child's living expenses is minimal.
He now contributes between $5K to $6K per month. I have spoken with the father time and time again as I am under a lot of financial stress and this is not enough to help. When her mother works she helps with the expenses, other than that she is at my home every weekend and she helps around the house.
The child will be sitting the exam next year to advance to the secondary level. Her father does not see her often or spend much time with her.
He now has another child and this was very stressful for her initially.
He has no plans in place for her future and unknown to him, but with her mother's knowledge, I took out an insurance policy to help with future expenses. I must state that I am not the owner of the policy, her mother is. I am just the payer as I was told that I don't have an insurable interest in the child. Her mother does not want to go through the court system for a number of reasons.
I love this child like she was my own. What can I do to ensure that the father does more?
It is very unfortunate that only you seem to be doing all you can for this child while the father only provides for her minimally and her mother also only provides for her intermittently.
Both parents have failed and are failing to meet their moral and legal obligation to, firstly, care for their child, and secondly, to provide for her maintenance. It seems to me that since they both know that you will do all you can for their child, they are not making any effort, or any appreciable effort, to actually be parents to their child.
Your niece must do what she must as the mother of the child. She has abdicated this position and responsibility to you and then you say "she does not want to go through the court system for a number of reasons". This, with all due respect, is ridiculous, selfish, thoughtless and irresponsible. By her holding this position, she is in fact denying her child the protection which the law can ensure so that she and the father meet their legal and moral obligations to their child. I cannot for the life of me imagine any reason which would excuse her failure to act on her child's behalf and which has the continuing effect of denying her said child protection under the law to which she is entitled.
She, the mother, is also being very selfish and thoughtless about you and all that you have done for her child and the sacrifices you have had to make and are making in order to provide the proper care for her child.
She must do what she should have done before now and make the necessary applications for her child to ensure that she continues to be properly cared for. She should apply for you to have custody, care and control of the child and for she and the father to provide maintenance to you for the child in the appropriate proportions according to their respective financial positions. She must also apply for she and the father to have access to the child.
If, for any number of her reasons, she does not make the application, then you must do so. Go to the Family Court and for the love you bear to this child, apply to have custody, care and control of the child so that you can properly and legally care for and protect her. Without the custody order you do not have the legal right to make all or any of the important decisions about her life path, for example, for her education, or to give permission to a doctor, hospital or clinic for her to have any medical treatment if she becomes very ill. I am sure that you make all these decisions now but this is merely de facto. You need the legal authority to act for this child upon whom you have showered and will continue to shower love and care and your resources.
As her parents seem to be happy to leave all the responsibility to you, I am sure that they will consent to your application. Without you, your grand-niece's present life would be uncertain and terrible and her future would be bleak. You are the only one who seems to care enough to take care of her and to try and make preparation for her future. I note the insurance policy you took out and are paying for.
What you are doing is very laudable but please do not let all that you have done amount to nothing. Get your niece to make the necessary applications to secure proper legal orders for adequate provision to be put in place.
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.
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.