Dear Aunt Silvia,
I was in a relationship with a man who promised to marry me. I believed him and dropped out of school and had a child with him.
He was a wonderful man in the early days of our relationship and even cleared the maternity bill.
However, to my shock, he disappeared and even changed his phone number immediately I was discharged from hospital with our child.
I managed to track him down and discovered that he is married and has two children with his wife.
He is financially stable. What does the law provide in a situation such as mine?
Can this man be forced to provide for our child? I blame him for not telling me the truth right from the beginning and raising my hopes of being married.
You have raised two issues. The first is maintenance for your child and the second the broken promise to marry you.
On the first issue, the Children’s Act provides that the father of a child who acquires parental responsibility over the child is under a duty to provide maintenance.
What needs to be determined, however, is whether the father of your child acquired parental responsibility.
A father acquires parental responsibility when he acknowledges paternity. In your case the father paid the maternity fees then disappeared. Did he acknowledge that he is the father of your child during this period when you were recovering from childbirth?
If he did, then he acquired parental responsibility. If the birth certificate of your child lists him as the father, then you have solid evidence of paternity.
If you can prove before the Children’s Court that he acknowledged paternity and acquired parental responsibility, then he would be placed under obligation to provide for the child.
This means that he would have to contribute towards the child’s housing, clothing, nutrition and education. It does not matter that he is married to another woman and has two other children.
This fact would simply be one of the considerations when determining how much of his earnings he needs to contribute towards maintaining the child he has with you.
You blame him for promising to marry you then dashing your hopes when he failed to keep his promise.
I don’t know whether to blame your age or your being naïve.
You should know that in most cases when a man reaches a certain age, and he tells you that he is not married yet you do not know where he lives, he only surfaces when the two of you want to meet and most of the time is out of town, then know that something is cooking.
I can as well tell you to forget that marriage part of your story, because it is evident that he is not going to marry you – in fact he is not worthy.
If you can focus on getting him to support your child so that you go back to school and finish your studies, that would be better.
You are not the first girl to drop out of school due to pregnancy and the baby should not be the reason for you not to continue with your studies, that is water under a bridge.
Get up now and go back to school so that in the near future you won’t have to go to court to sue any man for lack of buying your baby milk and diapers because with proper education you can be anything and afford whatever you will desire in life.