How the Le­gal Sys­tem con­tin­ues to fail our Chil­dren

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By STAR Re­porter

The fail­ure on the part of fa­thers to con­tinue to sup­port their chil­dren when a cou­ple has de­cided to part ways, is an all too com­mon oc­cur­rence here in Saint Lu­cia. It has be­come ac­cepted as the norm, an al­most typ­i­cal Lu­cian trait among a vast pop­u­la­tion of our men, as the is­land ap­pears syn­ony­mous with a cul­ture of ab­sen­tee fa­thers. This week the STAR ad­dressed this per­ti­nent is­sue, a wide­spread dilemma so many frus­trated sin­gle moth­ers can surely re­late to.

Karen, as we will call her, is our feature mother for this story. She tells us, “On Thurs­day 5th May, 2016 I pro­ceeded to the Cas­tries branch of the Fam­ily Court to ap­ply for a child sup­port war­rant. This was ac­tu­ally long over­due be­cause it had been al­most a year since he had made a pay­ment or taken care of the kids; we have a son and daugh­ter.

“My chil­dren’s fa­ther had been long delin­quent in mak­ing his or­dered child sup­port pay­ments but af­ter over­look­ing his com­pla­cency for one month too many I de­cided to take a stand on be­half of the young­sters.

“He used to take ex­cel­lent care of the chil­dren un­til I broke up with him. When I left, he be­came very disrespectful, bit­ter and an­gry to­ward me, and dras­ti­cally changed to­ward the chil­dren. He used to abuse me ver­bally all the time and ha­rass male friends he would see me with, un­til I ap­plied for a re­strain­ing or­der which was granted, and sub­se­quently a child sup­port or­der.”

Karen pro­ceeded to ex­plain that she fol­lowed up on her ap­pli­ca­tion by at­tend­ing the usual swear­ing at the Court and there­after called the of­fice to en­sure that the war­rant had been filed, so as to avoid any set­backs in the process.

“When we last spoke he said he had no money. This is what he al­ways said, even when he was over­seas. He threat­ened to leave the is­land again. This is what spurred me to go down to the Court,” said Karen.

Ac­cord­ing to her, he had been abroad for the bet­ter part of half a year, dur­ing which time she re­ceived monies from him for the first cou­ple of months and there­after no fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance or oth­er­wise.

“Even when he re­turned he never once saw the chil­dren. He has been here from the be­gin­ning of the year and has been avoid­ing his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.”

With re­gards to the war­rant she says that she was as­sured by an of­fi­cer of the Courts that all doc­u­ments had been pro­cessed. “There had been some er­rors within the doc­u­ments ini­tially which I brought to their at­ten­tion. The clerk con­firmed that these had been rec­ti­fied and all was in or­der.”

Three weeks had elapsed and not a word heard from those con­cerned at the Court un­til she de­cided to take the bull by the horns and fol­low up. It was then that Karen re­ceived the dreaded news that there was no record of the war­rant.

“I was asked by more than one per­son whether I am sure I came in to swear that day. They ques­tioned me about the date and said there was no record of me swear­ing.”

Fol­low­ing this, she re­ported that she was asked to con­tact the Writ De­part­ment - re­spon­si­ble for is­su­ing war­rants. Af­ter mak­ing count­less phone calls and speak­ing to sev­eral per­sons about the mat­ter, she was told there was no record of the doc­u­ments and that no war­rant had been is­sued.

“How they could en­quire about me com­ing in to swear is pro­pos­ter­ous, con­sid­er­ing the fact that the very doc­u­ments I was given to take up to the mag­is­trate were is­sued by their own ad­min­is­tra­tive de­part­ment,” she com­plained.

The of­fi­cer in ques­tion, af­ter thor­oughly search­ing through their records, called to con­firm that the war­rant was never pre­pared and there­fore never is­sued. The doc­u­ments seemed to have mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared! “How could this be?” she ex­claimed, but in the back of her mind she al­ready had a sus­pi­cion as to what may have gone wrong.

“From the day I went in to ap­ply for the war­rant, as I waited in line, I was pon­der­ing, think­ing I hope I do not ex­pe­ri­ence any dif­fi­culty. My chil­dren’s fa­ther has a sis­ter who works with the po­lice de­part­ment within the same ju­ris­dic­tion where the war­rant would be dis­patched. I brushed the thought aside and re­as­sured my­self that our le­gal sys­tem de­served more credit than this, to even imag­ine that any foul play would be at work within the process.”

Karen ad­mit­ted that she had some­how sensed that some­thing would go wrong and al­most a month later her pre­mo­ni­tions be­came a real­ity.

“I re­ceived a call from an of­fi­cer at the Gros Islet po­lice sta­tion who was not even af­fil­i­ated with the case. He called to say that there was no record of me fil­ing for a war­rant, no doc­u­ments, noth­ing of the sort. As to how he re­ceived word about my sit­u­a­tion I am none the wiser. I do know, how­ever, that my chil­dren’s fa­ther knows him well.”

Karen af­firmed that by then she was be­com­ing con­vinced that some­thing had gone wrong, as no one up to that point could ac­count for the miss­ing doc­u­ments.

“The clerk I dealt with re­called me com­ing in that day and her hav­ing to make the cor­rec­tions. She con­firmed hav­ing done so and sub­mit­ting them. What she said was that af­ter the doc­u­ments left her hands she was un­able to ac­count for what hap­pened to them. I ex­plained to her the rea­son for my frustration and she em­pathized, ad­mit­ting her con­fu­sion, as well, as to their where­abouts.”

Ac­cord­ing to Karen, the clerk, af­ter count­less phone calls and hav­ing to con­stantly fol­low up her­self on this mat­ter, in­formed her that the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments were not re­cov­ered.

“What I don’t un­der­stand is how Court doc­u­ments just van­ish with­out a trace. It is baf­fling and ab­surd! Surely some­one has to be able to give an ac­count for them. Other per­sons who came in to Court that day with me who had ap­plied for war­rants as well around that time, told me those they had filed had been suc­cess­fully is­sued.”

She went on, “For some, the fa­thers had been de­tained and the pay­ments made ac­cord­ingly. So what hap­pened with mine?”

Not about to ac­cept the fact that no one at the of­fice could ac­count for the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments and the fact that the war­rant was never even is­sued she pursued the mat­ter.

“What an­gered me more was the fact that I was told that he had left the is­land. He owes al­most $4,000 to date.”

The young woman told the STAR that she had been try­ing her best to be op­tis­tis­tic about the sit­u­a­tion.

“I hope his sis­ter is not be­hind all this. I would rather it be a case of in­com­pe­tence on the part of the Fam­ily Court, as aw­ful as that would be, than to think that any­thing un­der­hand was in op­er­a­tion here.”

Af­ter all the ten­sion of wait­ing and the added stress of hav­ing to be the one to fol­low up on the mat­ter, she now con­tin­ues to wait.

“What hurt me the most was that no one seemed to care or was both­ered to fol­low up on the mat­ter. I guess if it were one of their rel­a­tives or friends they would have. The of­fi­cer I was asked to call back to fol­low up on the new set of doc­u­ments, to my amaze­ment again in­formed me they weren’t there ini­tially. He had asked me to al­low him time to li­aise with the rest of the de­part­ment and get back to me. At least he ac­tu­ally did. At that point, he said they had fi­nally been filed and would be is­sued within the week.”

Now all Karen can do is wait some more for the war­rant to be is­sued, and in the mean­time, all she can do is hope for the best. While she waits, how many other moth­ers with no real av­enue to be heard face sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions with­out any form of jus­tice be­ing served? How many fa­thers man­age to es­cape from a le­gal sys­tem which is sup­posed to be de­pend­able, hav­ing been put in place to pro­tect our chil­dren?

“While the court sys­tem claims to be mak­ing pro­vi­sion for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion, by pro­vid­ing le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and ex­er­cis­ing mea­sures to com­pel ab­sen­tee fa­thers to ac­knowl­edge their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, our jus­tice sys­tem con­tin­ues to fail our ju­niors mis­er­ably,” a frus­trated Karen ex­pressed.

Chil­dren all over the world are aban­doned by fa­thers but the prob­lem seems to have reached epi­demic pro­por­tions in Saint Lu­cia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.