Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 16th 2014 Contents Mr Feeles, did you wake up one morn-
ing and decide to do something to assist
single fathers who you felt were being
taken advantage of?
(In the living room of his home at Heritage
Drive, Cunupia, Sunday morning) No, not
exactly like that. I have a son, and because
of a religious problem, his mother and
I ended up in the Magistrates Court over
maintenance and custody of him.
And according to what lawyers,
social workers and other
stakeholders in the system
said, she gave a very
The order she
gave allowed me to
see my son every other day, where I would
have that much access to him. He was a
baby still and I explained to her I wanted
to experience fatherhood, such as changing
diapers, mixing formula and so on.
[His mother] appealed the order, saying
that I had too much access, but the mag-
istrate ruled, we (father and son), had a very
close bond and I was allowed to have the
same access, until his mom started breaching
the order by not allowing me to have the
required number of visits.
Where is the child today?
He is right here with me (pointing to a
bedroom). This is my weekend with him;
he is six years old and I must say that since
she has seen how I am taking care of our
son, I think she has given me a lot [more]
respect than before.
In retrospect, I have found that perhaps
society did not previously deem fathers as
being necessary or important in the bringing
up of a child.
Isn t that a bit strange, in that changes
have been made through the years,
where things like a Family Court was
set up to deal with these issues involving
parents, particularly single fathers?
You see, when you look at laws and the
system, they always look good on the surface,
but the problem is the reality of the human
element involved in working the system.
I was elected a member of the Prime
Minister s Task Force on the formation of
the Children s Authority. On paper it looks
like a very good thing, but if you inject
people who don t really have a passion or
concern for children, love and the protection
of children, it may fall down.
These systems do not stand on their own
and the same thing with the court where
they would say, "Boy, it is more about medi-
ation, it is more about co-parenting, it is
getting the parents to work together..."
So if you transfer the same bias which
existed previously into this supposedly better
system it is going to fail as well, and that
is what we are seeing.
Why this issue with the Family Court?
It is this court where I had actually lost
my son, I would say, but it was only when
I came up before magistrate Mrs Nicole
Banfield-Khan that she understood the
importance of a father being in his child s
life. So even those systems appear to be
good, at the end of the day the judge or the
magistrate are the final arbiters in these
cases...how they feel to do it.
From your vantage point, Mr Feeles,
is the Family Court achieving what it
set out to achieve?
(Adamantly) No. It has a lot of flaws and
as I said, the human factor is the first thing.
Many people are just there because it is a
job. It is not something they are passionate
about. To the presiding officer it appears
to be just another piece of paper coming
before them for the next trial, the next
There isn t that commitment to really
say, "Hey, you all, let s make family life
better, let s put family life..."
When you get into the court itself, there
is this perception that the father is there to
defend themselves, and that is a bad
approach. At the end of the day it is not
a criminal matter.
In other words, it should not be an
Of course not. And that is why they say
they put things in place like mediation, but
What is the attitude with
which we must go about
doing our daily works?
to us today.
While performing your duties in your house or
outside, constantly remind yourself, "Whatever I do,
think or speak, everything belongs to God." The
proper attitude should be, 'Sarva karma Bhagavath
preethyartham'. Take for example, the process of
cooking. You add different ingredients to the dish
being cooked in definite proportions and try to make
them tasty. But the real taste comes only when the
job of cooking is done as an offering to God. The
food becomes divine when it is offered to God. On
the other hand, if the various items are cooked with
the attitude, 'I am doing this job as a routine; I am
cooking these items for my family members to
partake', it does not reach God. Hence undertake
every act in your life as an offering to God, chanting
His Name. Whatever you think, speak or do,
consider it as God's command, God's work.
Do all acts as offerings to God; do not classify some
as 'my work' and some as 'His work' - Baba1116001
www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2014
with Clevon Raphael
PHOTOS: JAMEELA RAPHAEL
President of the Single Fathers Association of T&T
RHONDALL FEELES is lamenting a lack of trans-
parency at the Family Court, where fathers are paying main-
tenance for the upkeep of their children.
They are not sure that the money is being spent by the
mothers for the purpose it was intended and is calling for
this process to be made completely transparent.
Feeles, also the vice-president of the T&T Automobile
Dealers Association, is claiming the cards are stacked
against fathers, who are being stigmatised, with the
label "deadbeat dads" being attached to them.
Single Fathers' Association president on Family Court:
Continues on Page A11
Links Archive November 15th 2014 November 17th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page