Dear Mrs Macaulay,
My son is 10 years old and his biological father has been absent for most of those 10 years since he and I broke up. He currently owes hundreds of thousands in child maintenance. I keep having to get summons then hunt him down to serve them but I'm getting nowhere with the courts. I have two questions. First, how can I get around needing his permission to change my son's first and middle names, and second, is there a way to strip him of parental rights/claims to my son? I have been with a wonderful man who has been a father to my son in every way since my son was four and he is willing to legally adopt my son. I want to be done with this mess with my deadbeat ex.
I cannot understand why you say that you are getting nowhere with the court in your attempts to have your deadbeat ex, as you refer to your son's father, pay up his arrears of thousands of dollars of your son's maintenance which are still outstanding. It is a pity that you did not say what steps you had taken in the court to have these arrears paid by him.
Anyway, the fact remains that he owes a great deal, but most important, it seems that he is also not using any access to have a relationship with his son. I conclude that this is so because you refer to the fact that the partner you have been with since your son was four has been wonderful and a father to him in every way. You also say that he wishes to adopt your son. This is a happy fact for you and your son to have such a man in your lives.
But let me deal with the gravamen of your queries. The first is how you can get around the need to have his permission to change your son's first and middle names. The answer to this is that you cannot get around this unless you have sole legal custody of your child (and you must continue to have legal care and control also).
The second thing is that you ask whether there is a way to strip your deadbeat ex of his parental rights/claims to your son. The answer to this question is yes you can, in a way. There is a way by law in fact, in section 14 of the Children (Guardianship and Custody) Act. You and your spouse can apply for legal custody, care and control of your son and you can in your application use the provisions in section 14 to deny any custody of or access to your son by your ex on the grounds that (1) He abandoned his child from an early age; (2) He has for years refused to pay the maintenance sums ordered and despite all your efforts through the court, he has continued to refuse to make any payments; (3) He has made no attempts to use his access to the child over the years and so there is no relationship of father and son between them; and finally, (4) He has in fact allowed his son to be brought up and be provided for by your spouse since your son was four and this man has been a father to your son in every way.
When you and your spouse get the orders of joint custody, care and control of your son, this will enable him to legally exercise the rights and meet the obligations as any father. It will enable you to effect the change of your son's first and middle names without any recourse to his biological father for his consent. In other words, you and your spouse will have the power and right to make all important and day-to-day decisions about your son's welfare and upbringing until he attains his majority.
The issue of your son's adoption can be addressed after you and your spouse have obtained and enjoyed your legal custody and care and control orders. The biological father will be contacted about an adoption application and it is possible he may or may not respond to any such contact. You will have to then wait and see and seek to convince the Adoption Board of his deadbeat character in every way vis-à-vis his son and that it is in the best interests of your son for him to be adopted by your spouse.
I hope that my response to your letter has clarified the issues for you and has pointed out to you a road that you can take to have actual complete legal rights to bring up your child by making all decisions about his welfare and life without having to have any permission from his biological father.
So good luck. Make the necessary application as I have suggested.
All the best to you and your family.
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.