Dear Editor: I would like to open the dialogue on a topic I believe needs to be addressed in St. Lucia.
As a former student of human development, I am aware of the effect of the home environment on a child’s level of success, their perception of life, and reactions to situations they face. I would like to specifically draw attention to an issue I faced recently on a visit to the Family Court division.
I am the mother of a five-year-old child. The father and I separated before our child turned a year, due to him being unfaithful. He was contributing to the maintenance of the child until he got married. At this point, it was a begging game for him to contribute anything towards his child. I never placed him on child support because I was making decent money and was a bit embarrassed due to the negative connotation in St. Lucia regarding child support.
Recently, I got married, and despite the fact that he contributes nothing to maintenance, I still allows him to have contact with and have a relationship with our child.
I got the ultimate blow when our child fell ill and had to come up with a considerable amount of money for medical bill. Unfortunately, I got unemployed and still searching for work. I called the father and explained to him, our child needed to undergo medical exams and we had to cover the bills. It was at this time he told me, our child is no longer his responsibility, but instead my husband should enjoy taking care of his child for him until he is 18 years. I was deeply saddened that a working man would expect another man to go to work every day to feed his child when he is fully capable of doing so.
I decided to visit Family Court the following day and to my amazement, fellow St. Lucian mothers, THIS IS THE LAW.
I was told by the case worker: “His father does not have to do anything for him now, you are married.” My child is only five years old ! What does choosing to be married have to do with my child’s right to be taken care of by the father? What does having a man, my husband, in my bed have to do with my child’s right to be fed, clothed, maintained by the father? Is the law asking us mothers to make a choice? It’s either you stay single, move from one man to another and never have a married life and your child’s father will be obligated to pay child support. Or, if you choose to marry and raise a family, then your child’s father can be free of his responsibility. However, the father can marry if he decides.
The law is clearly suggesting a relationship between who is in your bed and who has to feed and maintain your child. It’s no wonder some men refuse to care for their child unless they have intimate relations with the mother. The law in St. Lucia as it stand encourages it. It’s no wonder that a man may date, but not marry a decent young woman with two children from a previous relationship, because he knows when it says ” I do”, the child is now his financial responsibility.
It is disappointing that my child’s father is a successful business man in St. Lucia, but refuses to provide not a penny to his child’s upbringing because I committed the ultimate crime of being married now. He got married himself before I did. The law is encouraging promiscuity by mothers, and neglect on the part of fathers.
The holidays and observances of women’s rights and rights of a child in St. Lucia should take into account these issues. This is a human rights issue. I believe the fundamental rights of my child to be cared for by both parents are being violated.
At this point, being recently unemployed, my husband is working a full-time job and odd jobs on weekends struggling to care for my sick child’s medical expenses. It’s a complete disgrace that we encounter my child’s father occasionally, and he has this smirk on his face. He just passed on 18 years of financial responsibility of our child to another man, and there is nothing I can do about it because the LAW in St. Lucia supports him. The law has essentially told him, it is okay to abandon your child, now that the mother is married.
Let this letter serve as an opener to dialogue on this issue. This LAW has to be changed. And we wonder why our society is such a mess. We need to change the laws relating to families and responsibility of parents.
This is the first of many letters on media outlets regarding this issue. This LAW needs to be changed. This senseless LAW will be changed.