US-based dad says deadbeat Jamaican mom neglecting kids
back view of african american father and son walking and holding hands in park

Dear Mrs Macaulay, I am currently residing in the United States. On multiple occasions I have asked that my kids be a part of my life, and to give them an opportunity here. Their mother is always fighting against me. My son is 16, and she has allowed him to drop out of school. She does not provide adequate living conditions for my three kids (eight, 11 and 16). She does not work, nor does she homeschool the kids. She leaves them alone for months at a time. I would prefer if they were in my presence than being left alone. She does not provide a house with running water. She is always threatening me if I don’t send money; however, she makes no effort to do anything I ask about my kids regarding their medical welfare and schooling. What would you advise me to do?

You are clearly concerned about the lives and welfare of your children and the questionable care being provided for them by their mother. Apart from the fact that she is unemployed and does not assist them at home with their schoolwork, she also leaves them alone for months at a time, which would place them in even more vulnerable positions during their years of development. The fact that she has permitted your 16-year-old son to drop out of school is a very destructive act by a parent as she has curtailed opportunities for advancement in his life. This is clearly abusive conduct, especially as you have often offered to have your children with you in order to give them opportunities for advancement there with you. She has effectively denied your oldest child a chance to pursue higher levels of education and training. If you continue to permit your children to live in this way, it would result in the same conclusion or worse for the younger children. What also seems to be the case is that she must be utilising the monies you send for your children on herself and very little on the provision of their needs.

You are the father of these children and you have equal rights as their mother. The law is clear on this point. You have equal rights and obligations to have legal custody and the care and control of them. You have, however, left these with her and by doing so you are failing to meet your obligation as their father, which you do not discharge by merely sending her sums of money for their support. I must, however, applaud you for asking on multiple occasions to have your children go and live with you where you can ensure that they use opportunities available for their wholesome development in a settled home situation. You, however, did not take advantage of the law to apply for legal custody of them and their care and control on the basis of the unsatisfactory home situation and lack of proper care by their mother, who has proved to be an unfit mother.

What should you do? You must act as quickly as you can as your eldest child is now 16. You have to retain the services of an attorney to act for you and the children by preparing an application for you to have sole legal custody of each of them and orders to also have care and control of each of them. The order of sole legal custody shall give you the legal authority to make all important decisions for each of the children’s welfare, development, and life plans with no input or interference from their mother. You no doubt will have no difficulty in ensuring supporting evidence from other people. You shall have the sole right to decide where they reside, the schools they attend and to provide to them the opportunities of tertiary-level education and training. You shall also be the one to make medical decisions in the event of illness. You must act quickly and ensure that your lawyer deals with your application as one of urgency based on the fact of your eldest child’s age and also the manner and circumstances of their mother’s lack of proper care of them. Your lawyer should also ensure that a social enquiry report of their home and welfare is ordered to be prepared and that it be completed as a matter of urgency. Your application can be pursued in either the Family Court for the parish in which they reside here, or in the Supreme Court.

The fact that you reside in the USA does not preclude you from making the application. You must, when you retain the lawyer, instruct him or her fully, say everything, and give the names and contact particulars of at least two people who know the facts of your children’s situation and are willing to be witnesses in support of your application. The lawyer would then contact them and get their statement of facts and prepare their affidavits and have them signed and witnessed by a justice of the peace and have them filed. The lawyer would need to obtain certified copies of the children’s birth certificates as expeditiously as possible as they must be submitted to the court with your application. I suggest that you ensure that at least three extra certified copies of their birth certificates are obtained at the same time because you shall need such copies for your application for their visas after you obtain the orders of the court and for their future application to schools, etcetera.

When all the documents are filed in the court, as you and your lawyer decide, and the hearing date has been fixed and entered on it, an original copy of each must be served on the mother so that she has the opportunity to attend on the date and either consent to or contest your application. If she contests it then a trial of both sides will be done and a decision made by the judge. If she does not attend, then the judge can decide to proceed with the matter in default of her application. This fact ought to be stated in your application, warning her that it is likely to happen if she fails to attend court on the date of the hearing. It would be good if you can appear in the court here in person, but for good and sufficient reason, your lawyer can apply before the hearing date for you to appear by way of a video link. Your lawyer or the court clerk would inform you if you need to have a home study done of your home and submit it with your supporting affidavit, though you would already have given details of your home and who lives there with you and will be living with the children (that you have room for them), the schools, church for religious practices, and medical services you have arranged for them.

So, dear father, the fact that you are in the USA does not bar you from making and proceeding with an application as the law provides for you to have your children reside with you and for you to have the legal authority to make all their important life decisions and open the doors of opportunities for them to have a chance at settled home lives with a caring and responsible and reliable parent and bright and successful futures.

Please try to act as quickly as you can, especially as time is running out for your eldest, who is already out of school and will soon be 18 and recognised in law as an adult. Also, the younger ones need to have better chances and have their best interests be the guiding force of parenting in their lives.

I hope I have clarified what you can and should do in all your children’s best interests. You must act immediately, please, as you have lost too much time already .

All the very best to you and your children.

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.

Margarette Macaulay

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