Step dads, do you have rights?

Ouch! This man has stayed up the whole night looking for every possible means to calm the baby’s colic. He has adorned the children with the latest fashion, has stocked the kitchen with food, the bathroom with diapers, is paying insurance for the children, and is shopping for a kindergarten, to mention a few. But as long as the fatherhood is not on paper, he is simply a nice man-without legal fatherly say; over what needs to happen to the child he is fathering. Whoever said the law was just!

So you have got to do what a father has got to do. Put your intentions on paper, now that your name is not on this child’s birth certificate. It is called adoption. The fastest way of adopting is most likely the last thing you may think of- getting the biological father to sign a document relinquishing his paternal rights papers in accent that you, (the step father) can now be proud sole owner of the title ‘Father’. An incentive for him is that he no will longer be responsible for child support. It is clear that there are a few African men who will entertain this kind of discussion, but it may be worth the try.

Well, the Kenyan Law understands how complicated that scenario is, and has therefore made room for you to tackle the case in court using evidence like: The biological father has not visited or made contact for over a year, or given financial support, was abusive, and the like. Based on the facts availed to him during the court proceedings; a judge is in a position to terminate the biological father’s parental rights, even if he won’t sign a relinquishment.

At this juncture, you will need a lawyer to represent you and a social worker will have to visit your home and prepare an Adoption Home Study Report. The social worker will be out to confirm that you are of sound mind, that you have never been charged or convicted of child abuse, that you are not a homo sexual, and that you are actually married to the child’s mother.

The structures involved include the judiciary, the adoption committee, the children’s department, adoption societies, and the Law Society of Kenya. Before you have the child as your own, there will be a court process that entails the hearing, assessing of the reports all the necessary reports, final adoption orders, and finally, the issuance of adoption certificate by Registrar General.

Once you have established paternity and your desire to be part of the child’s welfare, the most effective way you can establish your parental rights with your child is to file a Parenting Plan in court. The outlines how you will be part of parental responsibilities such as: Naming the child (though names cannot be changed after the child has reached four years), having a personal relationship with the child, guiding his upbringing, acting as a ” legal representative until he is 16 years old if required, directing her taxes and wills, and access to the child’s records including their education’s.

You are also required to give consent for medical treatment, for his getting of National Identity Cards and passports, and even consent for his adoption and marriage; that is, if the child is under 18. And since a child can have only two legal parents, adoption means the biological visiting rights are automatically cut off and all of the other rights over the child are dispensed to you.

This responsibility follows the Children Act 1989, which says, as a parent (with parental responsibility) your responsibilities are ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.

And there goes a father in all totality-who however, needs to note that his responsibilities over the child should be met to the latter. Any sense of unreliability can be used against a father in court to strip him of his legal paternal title. Because at the end of the day, the law has it that everything should operate in the best interest of the child. So, enjoy fatherhood.

Information is courtesy of Elaine Namachanja, an attorney of the High Court of Kenya.

END: BL 26/17

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