Dad didn’t want the baby, but mom wants support
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Dear Mrs Macaulay, I would like to take my son’s father to court but the baby is not in his name. He did not want the child from the start but I decided to carry my baby despite his selfish behaviour and the threats I got from him. I am not sure how the court will address this issue or how they could help me. I am certain that he is the father and I would love to get my son’s name changed as well. Please let me know if I am thinking about the right step.

Yes, your thought and plan to make an application to the Family Court for your parish for a Declaration of Paternity and other consequential orders is the right step for you to take. It is your duty to ensure that your son bears his correct family name, is supported by his father, and that he has or develops a relationship with his father. He has a right to his family and this consists of you and your family and his father and his family.

You have no cause to be concerned about applying to the court to rectify the position of the failure at the time of your son’s birth to give the recording registrar his father’s name and his particulars, or even just his name. You could also have gone to the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) within a year of his birth to complete the report for his birth records and make a declaration about his paternal father. Failing this, your next step according to law is to apply to the Family Court for your parish for a Declaration of Paternity.

This application, when made by you, must be served on the person you named in it as the father of your child. I suggest that you ask for the bailiff of the court to do the service of your application on him and you then just have to make sure that you attend court on the day stated in your application as the hearing date. If he admits that he is the father then the declaration will be made and the other orders you want will be made. The court officials will guide you through the process. Do not be afraid to ask questions of the person dealing with you.

If the respondent, the one you know as, and who you have named as the father in your application, after having been served does not attend court for the hearing on the appointed day, after the judge has been satisfied that he was served properly and in good time, he will be subject to certain orders by the judge. It may be that a warrant may be ordered to be issued for his arrest, so that he can be taken to the court by police as he would be in their custody once they execute the warrant.

But let’s be positive and say that he does attend court on the hearing date stated in your application but that he does not accept that he is the biological father of your son. The judge in such circumstances will make orders for DNA tests to be done at his expense (or it could be at your joint expense), which you can insist on, if you are certain of his paternity. You can tell the judge that he knows that he is the father, and say why you say this, and that he had not wanted you to carry the pregnancy to term and have the child as he did not want the burden of responsibility. You will have to take your son for the DNA test as both he and his father must have specimens for comparison to be done and the results sent to the court. If the results show that your son and the man are indeed father and son to the requisite percentage in the report of the results, the judge will make the Declaration of Paternity that this man is the father of your son, and all other consequential orders. The clerk of courts will explain to you what you should do to obtain the original and certified copies of the declaration and orders made, and how you should go about having the fact entered on your son’s birth records at the RGD’s office.

Once you have the Declaration of Paternity, you can apply for the declared father to contribute to at least one-half of your son’s total living expenses. You should make sure that you calculate this from actual expenditures you have to make for your son’s maintenance, which must include his share of rental or mortgage payments for his shelter; his share of the utility bills including electricity, water, cable, Wi-Fi and telephone; and of course the cost of his food, clothing, footwear, barber’s charges, toiletries, snacks, lunch monies, cost of transportation and miscellaneous charges. Then his educational, medical, dental and optical costs are also to be divided in two so that you pay half the totals and he pays the other half. I suggest that for his payment of his ordered maintenance sums, that you ask for him to pay them to the court’s office because of his history of abuse and threats. This means makes it easier to keep track of his payments, so that if he defaults, what he owes can be easily proved.

You should bring up the question of his access to your son, so that a relationship can have a chance to develop between them. If he is abusive in any way to the child then you must go back to the court and seek to suspend access while he has counselling or that access be terminated as being not in your child’s best interests because abusive conduct to a child is in violation of the child’s rights and is destructive to a child’s proper development.

One thing I must stress, you must not be afraid to use the law for your child’s development and in his best interests. It is your duty to ensure that he enjoys all his rights and has a happy childhood and the opportunity of knowing all his family and to have the name he is entitled to in law and in fact. So speak out and take all the action you can to protect your child which the law provides for.

I hope that I have clarified everything for you, even though you did not mention the age of your son. As long as he is under 18 years of age, you can go ahead and make the application.

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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