Saw this article in the Jamaica Observer:
A flip-flop father
Monday, July 11, 2011
Dear Mrs Macaulay,
On his request, my child’s father, who lives overseas, was granted telephone access by the court to call our six-year-old son on weekends. This he did for several months, then suddenly stopped. He has not called in over two months, but still sends support. We haven’t been on speaking terms for years, but I speak to his relatives so I know he’s OK. I don’t want to raise the issue with our son, as I fear he’ll get upset, and he hasn’t raised the issue with me. What can I do in the circumstances? My fears have always been that he’s a flip-flop father, but I’m worried that his absence will affect our son psychologically. Is there anything that I can do legally to either force him to obey the court order and call, or apply to the court to stop his access, so he doesn’t flit continuously in and out of our son’s life?
Thank you for your letter and I have noted your difficulty and frustration. I see that the court granted the father’s request and made the order for access by way of telephone calls every weekend. You say this was observed by the father for several months but that he suddenly stopped. You also say that you have not been on speaking terms with him for years. This is not good.
It is not advisable that you and your child’s father do not communicate about your child’s upbringing and welfare. Your child should feel the weight of the interest of both his parents in all aspects of his life. He cannot if his father does not know anything about his life, except what he, the child, tells him.
I am therefore not surprised that he has not mentioned to you the fact that his father has not been calling for a while.
You have not given the father a father’s role if you have not discussed plans for your son with him. If you did, when he calls, instead of asking his son for information, he can actually ask ‘how did you fare in your race on your sports day?’ Your son, I assure you, would know the difference and their chats would have some substance.
You are clearly a very caring and responsible mother and you seem to be concerned for your son. You also know that the maintenance the dad sends is not the be all and end all of a father and child relationship. If you were my client, I would have strongly advised you and pressed and pressed you, for your son’s sake, to get over your remnants of hurt and/or bitterness towards this man, and that you start to speak with him about your son’s life. I am advising you to do so.
Tell him that you both need to communicate about your son’s upbringing and life in order to ensure that his development is as wholesome as it can be made to be. Then you should tell him what you plan for your son, how he is doing with his schoolwork, which subjects he excels in and which he is finding challenging. Talk to the father about what sports he likes, which ones he plays, etc. I know it will be hard to start speaking with him, but for your son, I am sure that you can make the sacrifice. In any event, you need to find out directly from him why he has not called for two months.
I do not see how you can force him legally to abide by his access order. If he is in breach, as he has been for two months, and you go to court to vacate his access order, you do not have any direct evidence, save hearsay from his family, that he is alright. You can wait for more time to pass and then apply to have his access vacated on the ground that he has for five or six months, for example, not made any telephone contact with your son, though your telephone number has not changed since the order was made. You may and would probably be asked by the judge why he has not called, especially as he is still paying his maintenance contributions. This will be looked on as evidence that he does not intend or wish to abscond from his duties as a father, and there must be a reason for his silence.
I do understand your fear about the harm he would cause your son if he calls for a while, then stops and then repeats the cycle over and over. But before you go back to court — and two months is a bit too short to prove a definitive intent of disinterest — please try what I have suggested. Communication between you is really the better way to go for your child’s best interests and overall wholesome development. I pray that you will find the strength to speak with him about your child’s welfare and make him understand the harm to his son that such conduct may cause.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law and a women’s and children’s rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to [email protected]; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5.