DEAR MRS MACAULAY,
I have a child who is almost two years old. His father has not been present since his birth and I have no way of contacting him, as he has changed his number and has moved from the address I know. The problem is that I am planning on travelling with my son soon but in order for me to enter that country I would need permission from the other parent, unless I have proof to show that I have sole custody. How do I apply for sole custody? Will I have to go to court with the father even though he has not signed the birth certificate?
I will answer your second question first. Yes, you will have to go to court in order to obtain sole (or even joint) custody of your child. Only a Family Court or the Supreme Court can grant an order for the custody of a child. It does not matter that the father did not join you in the reporting of your child's birth, or sign any declaration as to his paternity.
You will have to make the application with him named as the defendant and apply for him to be served by substituted service by means of advertisements in one of the daily newspapers for the number of days ordered by the court. You should keep the papers in which the advertisements of the application against him are published, so that you can produce them in court when you return on the date fixed for the hearing of the matter.
I suggest that you apply to the Family Court for your parish as this will ensure that your matter proceeds quicker than if you apply to the Supreme Court, and if you retain a lawyer to assist you the fees ought to be lower than in the Supreme Court. You must take a certified copy of your child's birth certificate with you to the Family Court when you go to make your application.
You do not have to get a lawyer unless you choose to. You can just go to the Family Court in your parish and the intake officer and the clerk will assist you with the drawing up of your application and explain what you should do about the service. You must tell them everything so they can properly assist you.
After all the advertisements have been published and you attend court on the date fixed, if the father attends he would be given the opportunity to speak about how he feels regarding your application. He may ask for access and once he turns up the court can make orders for him to pay maintenance for his child's support.
If he does not turn up, the court will proceed with your application in his absence and make the order for you to have sole legal custody of your child. You must then make sure that you ask the clerk for at least two sealed copies of the order which you will need to produce to the respective embassies or consular offices for the granting of visas whenever you wish to travel with your child.
I hope I have explained why you must go to court, how the father's absence from the life of his child and his disappearance will be handled, and how your application for sole custody will be deal with so that the court can make the order in your favour.
Please do not delay. Go and apply as soon as possible.
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.