Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2015 Contents 4 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt June 21, 2015
• Tell us about your family.
My son was conceived while his mother and I
were separated. Her parents were of a different
religious belief from mine, and that caused a
problem with mine. We wanted to be together,
but everyone wanted us to be apart. We were
already broken up, so we knew he was going to
be born into a relationship that had already
ended. We tried, but it didn't pan out.
• Were you in his life then?
We lived near to each other and I saw him
every day, but I wasn't allowed to take him
home to my parents for a few hours. I was very
uncomfortable with that situation. By the time
he was eight months or so, we ended up in the
magistrate's court. Marriages don't always
work, but it is not the perfect scenario to have
a child out of wedlock. It means you're going to
have to go over to the mother see the baby---
that's not the best situation. I was paying all
the bills, but was having problems to see him
• How was the problem solved?
The magistrate was young; one of the few pro-
fatherhood magistrates we have. She gave an
order that my lawyer said was extraordinary. I
was to have my son every other day, including
nights. She gave me the opportunity to be a re-
sponsible father---at 24. I know about getting
up in the middle of the night. I learned from ex-
perience, just like a woman does when she has
her first child. It was important to me to be in
my son's life. I have put in as much effort as she
has. His mom appealed; a judge granted me just
four days a month.
• How do you feel about this?
It makes you wonder why judges, lawyers, min-
isters, pastors, are calling on men to step up
and spend time with their kids, when the prece-
dent is that a good, interested dad should
spend just four days a month with his child. The
biggest losers in this are the children. We fight
each other in court, but these court orders are
sentences that the children serve. The courts
think once you are paying maintenance you
are being a good father. You go to court ex-
pecting justice: no justice. These are the frus-
trations men have to go through.
• What do you think is part of the problem?
There are women who think, this man hurt me,
so he doesn't deserve to see his children. I've
seen many children crying to go by their dad;
some moms know it, but still, good sense does-
n't prevail. We don't consider the children. I
have a friend who endured that for 18 years:
the day she turned 18, she left her mother's
house and went to live by her father, and never
• What do you say to people who see you
and your association as aggressive?
People will. But that has nothing to do with any
dislike toward women. Everything I learned was
taught to me by my mom. She taught me that
no matter your race or religion, people should
be treated well. If women were treated the
same way by the courts, they'd be angry too.
• How do you channel that anger?
I channel it in a positive way, through the Asso-
ciation. I prefer our members vent online than
• So you feel the system is unfair?
Children who live with their father are at a
greater disadvantage than those living with
their mother. Social services has no provision
for fathers and children, but who is the assis-
tance for? The child, not the father. I have a fa-
ther with two daughters, they sleep with a
friend or relative while he sleeps in the car. He is
trying with Ministry of Gender to get assis-
tance, but one of the criteria is being a single
mother. What about the single fathers? A fa-
ther of an autistic son is seeing a world of trou-
ble to get assistance. Fathers are not allowed in
safe houses. Even when the mother dies, we
are at a disadvantage. The maternal family
takes the child.
• What's the result of this?
Many women say they can't get the father in-
volved---he will pay, but tell him to come and
spend time with the child, you can't get them
to do it. But the men are saying, "I will cut my
losses and go start a family somewhere else."
It's hard to do what I do. If you don't have a
strong heart and strong will. Gender equality
must be for both sides.
RHONDALL FEELES is the
founder of the Single Fathers'
Association, as well as the
owner of a private auto deal-
ership, and Vice President of
the T&T Automotive Dealers'
Association. The Single
Fathers' Association has al-
most 4,000 Facebook mem-
bers and 2,000 registered
members. The group
advocates for fair and
equitable treatment of fa-
thers by the courts.
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By Roslyn Carrington
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