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Single fathers treated unfairly, JSC told
Mothers win in 74 per cent of the child custody cases in the local courts, Rhondall Feeles, president of the Single Fathers’ Association, told a Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity yesterday.
He said men are awarded custody only in 21 per cent of cases, while in five per cent of cases joint custody is granted.
He added that data from some 50 Family Court cases showed that the majority of non-custodial parents are men.
Feeles gave evidence before the JSC, chaired by Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, which was looking into the inequality faced by single fathers in custody matters, policies and access to programmes and services.
He said many single fathers are unable to access help because the country’s social services seem more prepared to support mothers than fathers. He gave the case of a man who was left to take care of seven children after his wife died and was told by social services personnel he could not access grants because only a mother get such support.
Director of the association Wendell Grant, a single father for the past 21 years, told the JSC he was falsely accused of sexually molesting his three children.
“A woman gave the police a piece of clothing soaked in blood. My children were taken and physically examined by a doctor. Even the boy had his anus examined,” he said
“The allegations were false because it was discovered it was goat’s blood. I had to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for counselling for my children.”
Gadsby-Dolly agreed that data collection is necessary to inform issues and influence policies for single fathers.
“Policies may not specifically deal with the issues faced by single fathers and social service policies may not be interpreted to allow single fathers to benefit from the available grants,” she said.
The minister said there is need for consultation on a draft gender policy to clarify the term “single fathers” and for a parenting policy specifically for single fathers to address their rights and legal options.
Among the recommendations made to the JSC was introduction of an electronic payment system for maintenance and for action in cases where mothers do not adhere to court rulings on visitation rights.