Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I was dating a very popular member of parliament for over four years, despite him having a babymother who lived with him. It happened that I got pregnant and then the relationship started getting sour. The child is now six years old and I haven't received anything from this man, despite him making promises that he would be a man and take care of his responsibilities. The problem is that I don't trust him. I fear that if I file for child support he might harm my family. I can't even talk to this man because I get really upset and start cursing, and I can't let him or the thought of him drain my energy. Please give me your honest opinion. Should I go after child support? I can't manage by myself because sometimes I am even short on my rent because I have to make sure I have food in the house for the child.
I do not understand how you can be so fearful that you have deprived your child of his or her just entitlements for six years. You did not say whether or not the child's father paid for your confinement costs. If he did not, he should have done so, and by doing nothing until now you denied yourself the opportunity of obtaining these funds years ago.
You said this 'very popular' member of parliament has repeatedly promised to meet his responsibilities as a father and contribute towards the maintenance of his child, but that he has not to date contributed anything. Six years is a very long time to keep receiving promises which never materialised. You and your child have also been in danger of losing your home for failure to pay your rental and this is terrible deprivation.
You say you do not trust him, and clearly he has been deceitful in his relationship with you as it happened while he had another woman. What I do not follow is why you say that you are afraid that if you file for maintenance of the child he might harm your family. You have not said that this man has ever in any way threatened or even intimated that if you make such a move he will take it out on your family by doing harm to them. So why do you have such a fear? Have you just worked yourself up to this position of fear? It seems to me that what you should be afraid of is fear itself.
If he had issued threats to prevent you pursuing your legal claim for the benefit of your child, it would be an offence in law and he could be charged with the issuance of such a threat, and for his intent in so doing to pervert the course of justice which would have been in the interest of a minor child.
More understandable is your upset feeling and anger whenever you try to talk with him. His conduct is such that it would make a saint angry. I believe, however, that you are also upset and angry with yourself for believing in his promises for so long.
So, my honest opinion is that you must apply immediately for (1) sole custody, care and control of your child and (2) maintenance contributions from the father. If when he is served he threatens harm to anyone connected to you, you should immediately inform the court and he will be in very serious legal trouble.
Please do not be afraid to do the right thing for your child. This man cannot afford to do otherwise but provide for his child if his wishes to retain his position without a legal, moral and social blemish and so jeopardise his 'popularity'.
You should expect that he might deny paternity. If so, keep your cool. A DNA test, which the court will order in such circumstances, with your consent, will prove the truth. You must ensure that you provide full details of your child's needs, apportion one-half of your rental and utility bills to the child's expenses, as well as the same for food. Then put in for transportation costs, clothing and footwear (both general and for school), sportswear and gears, lunch money, cost of extra-curricular activities, toiletries, hairdresser/barber costs, and a sum for fun and amusement/miscellaneous expenses. These costs are apportioned between you, as well as those for educational, medical, dental, and optical expenses. The apportionment need not be half/half, but could be one-third/two-thirds or whole/none, whichever is just in the determination of the court.
You see, it has to be apportioned according to the financial ability of the respective parents. So you should ask for his percentage to be higher than yours because he seemingly is far better off than you are and so, pursuant to the Maintenance Act, he should contribute more than you for the maintenance of your child.
For goodness sakes, don't delay. Act now for your child. Do what is best for the child and do not let your own emotions (understandable as they are) get in the way of you obtaining your child's rights.
You can go to the Family Court yourself. Have all the information of the costs of all the items I mentioned above and do not let anyone in the office talk you out of any of them. It is for the judge to decide what will be awarded, not for the clerks of the court. I say this because many women have told me that this has happened to them. Also, take a certified copy of your child's birth certificate with you. Or, you can go to a lawyer to file the claim in the Supreme Court. This unfortunately will take a longer time to be heard than a Family Court application.
I wish you and your child all the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. Mrs Macaulay cannot give personal advice.
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.