All Woman

Is dad overstepping his access order?

Dr Margarette MACAULAY

Monday, July 16, 2012    

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Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My child's dad lives in the United States. I have full legal custody — custody care and control. The father, upon a subsequent application, was given access this summer and he will pay for both myself and the child to visit the US. We have a consent order.

He has insisted that in the two weeks the visit will last, I am to have little or no contact with our son, save for when he schedules calls to me. In his words, our son and I are to have a "brief acclimation period" after our visit, after which he will whisk him away and allow occasional phone calls to me. He will take him to a hospital to be assessed.

The consent order simply gives him access to our son for two weeks this summer. It details none of what he has demanded.

Does the fact that I have legal custody prevent him from making such demands?

My son had only seen his father for the second time in his life when he was here for court and there was no contact from him before then.

Thank you for your letter. I will go straight to what I understand the facts and your problems are.

I understand that you consented that the father be granted access to his child during the school holidays. Only what you have stated are provided in the order, you said, yet you said your child's father has been telling you otherwise.

You have pointed out that your child's father has no relationship with his child and had only met him twice and the second occasion was during his application for access. It is understandable that you are very concerned by his unexpected interest and the fact that it would be your child's first residential access with someone who, though the father, is in fact a stranger.

Normally, when a parent has residential access, the child spends the ordered period with that parent while having telephonic or some other means of contact with the other who has custody, care and control. However, your circumstance is not the usual.

It is unfortunate that you did not specify that during this first visit, it should occur with you in attendance, until your child really gets to know the father and feels comfortable being with him.

Since you did not, you will have to negotiate this aspect with him. He should have no difficulty understanding this — that his child needs to get to know him while you are around to comfort and transmit to your child that such a relationship is alright with you. I hope you succeed in getting him to understand that you and he must do what is best for your child and you should both try not to traumatise him.

As to this thing about taking the child to a hospital to be assessed, what does he mean by this? Is he going to have the child undergo a variety of tests to ascertain the state of his health? Whatever the reason for such a plan, you having legal custody must consent and give him permission to consent to whatever medical assaults will be committed on your child's person. The parent with mere access, whether residential or not, does not have any authority to do what he plans on his own say so. No one should be subjected to any medical procedure which is not a necessity.

You must take with you a certified copy of your order which granted you sole legal custody and care and control, and that granting him access.

I think you acted correctly in consenting to him having access. It is good for your child to have a relationship with the father, which one hopes will be a good and healthy one, which respects the principal of the best interests of the child.

Good luck and best wishes to you all for the summer.

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. Mrs Macaulay cannot give advice via e-mail.

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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