DEAR MRS MACAULAY,
I am having an issue with the father of my child, whom I must say I didn't speak to or tried to contact for years. He has been absent for the most part from the beginning, and I eventually reached the point where I was tired of asking for financial support for the child. On occasion he would start a relationship with her, and whenever he didn't get his own way, he would just disappear from her life.
In 2016 he visited Jamaica and she went to spend a day with him. When he was leaving he gave me $8,000 and said he would send more when he returned home. After that he called her a few times until he just stopped.
He visited Jamaica again in 2017, and a neighbour told my daughter that he saw her dad. That's how she knew he was here. About two weeks after that he called asking to talk to her and asked her to visit him. He didn't try to contact her again after that visit and hasn't since then.
I am in the process of applying for a Canadian visa for her (the previous one expired). I think it was when I asked him for the consent letter the first time that he actually came back into our daughter's life. Now I have tried to call him but I keep getting voicemail. I have sent him a message via Whatsapp, which he has read, but he blocked my number.
What recourse do I have now? I am not asking him for financial assistance, I just need to sort out the document for my child.
It doesn't matter how much older and more experienced I become, I am always shocked at and frustrated with mothers who ignore their children's legal rights for years and then get angry, righteous in their views about their baby fathers, and frustrated with the situation which they themselves created. Yes, you created this situation by disregarding your daughter's legal rights to have her father bound by an order of either the Family Court here or the Supreme Court to provide maintenance for her until she attains the age of 23, or obtains her undergraduate degree, whichever is sooner. Such an order would also include the direction that the maintenance sum should increase by a stated percentage at the expiration of a fixed number of years, for example, at the end of every two years. Such an order would mean that repeated applications to the court wouldn't be needed.
In addition, you also ignored the fact that you only have de facto custody, care and control of your child. You failed to apply for sole legal custody and care and control, plus the maintenance application in one document. This would have given you the sole right to make all decisions about your daughter's life, including which country you wish to live in with her. Yet you only chose to ask for financial support and gave up frustrated by your failure to obtain this and the fact of the father's intermittent contact with the child. Your application for sole legal custody and the other matters I have stated would have (or should have) included an order about the father's access to his daughter.
What can you do? Make an application for the orders I have explained above. You have not stated the country where the father resides. This will determine how you can have him served with your application. By the way, I assume that you have his residential and postal address and also that of some family member of his. This information is important to determine the process and means of service and the issue of the enforcement of a court order.
There must be in existence a reciprocal treaty between Jamaica and that country to enforce their respective court orders. Jamaica has reciprocal agreements with several countries — in the United States, the states of Maryland, New Jersey and Florida; in Canada, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island; in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands; and also with the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Niue, and Western Samoa.
If he lives in a Commonwealth country, the processes are easier to serve and enforce.
You can also have him served here in Jamaica as soon as you know he is here. You will have to be vigilant and very proactive. You ought to know what time of the year he usually comes to Jamaica. This information should be given to your lawyer so that he or she can obtain a hearing date during the period he is normally here when he can be served, with enough time for him to answer it and appear, if he so wishes.
You should have retained a lawyer long ago to act for you to obtain your sole legal authority and right to make all decisions about and over your daughter's development and upbringing. Without the orders of sole custody, care and control, you share these rights with the father, and you therefore need his consent to obtain a Canadian visa for her.
I can only advise you, since it seems that your daughter is still a minor, to make your application to the court now. You do not need an attorney to file in the Family Court, but you will need one for the Supreme Court. Act immediately. Go and retain a lawyer now and act in the best interests of your child by ensuring that her life is not stymied by your failure to obtain her legal protections and rights.
All best wishes to you both.
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. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.
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.