Wed | Sep 23, 2020

‘Bring back my son - US legal battle looms to force mom to send boy back to Jamaica

Published:Thursday | January 30, 2020 | 12:00 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

A father is making a public plea for the safe return of his son, who was taken to the United States by his maternal grandmother under the guise that the then six-year-old would be brought back to the island at the end of the 2018 summer holidays.

The child, whose identity is being withheld by this newspaper, was taken overseas to spend time with his mother, Lacy-Ann Raymond, who migrated there in 2016.

For the child’s father, Desmond McKenzie, what was to be a one-month visit has turned into a three and a half year nightmare and protracted legal battle to have his son back in his care.

“I need to see my son. I need to speak with him. I need to know that he is okay. I didn’t know it would have been so difficult for me to even speak with my son, and I’ve tried so many mediums,” McKenzie said, indicating that he last spoke to his son in December 2018 when he turned seven years old.

So far, the 41-year-old told The Gleaner that he has exhausted all legal means to regain custody of his child, obtaining interim Supreme Court orders in December 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Further, he also made contact with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, which indicated to him in an email seen by The Gleaner that they could only obtain an order for access because the Hague Convention, which is an international agreement in place to ensure the safe return of a child that has been abducted by one parent, did not take effect in Jamaica until April 1, 2019.

The Portland resident has also taken his grouse to the Superior Court of New Jersey, the state of Lacy Raymond’s last known address, where a warrant has been issued for her arrest because of her failure to attend the court proceedings and return the child to his father in Jamaica.

McKenzie said that the ordeal has caused him great mental anguish, having first discovered Raymond’s plan after receiving a phone call from his son at the end of August 2018.

“It’s like actually a part of me is missing. A very huge chunk of my life gone, you know. It has affected me a whole lot,” McKenzie said.

“I’ve been to the doctor, I’m not sleeping, I’m restless, and to make matters worse, when she first told him that she was not coming back to Jamaica ... he called me on WhatsApp and he was saying ‘Daddy, you know Mommy said she not taking me back? I don’t know what she talking about. Are you coming to get me?” he said, recounting the conversation he had with his son.

Following this conversation, McKenzie said that he received a WhatsApp message from Raymond, where she stated her intention.

“I’m not obligated to explain anything to you guys, and if we could just keep it civil for the sake of the child, I would appreciate it. [Name redacted] missed you all and need to speak to you, so he is going to cry, so give him a chance to express himself,” the message read.

It continued: “He isn’t allowed to give out his school name nor his home address so please don’t ask him. You will be able to speak to him from time to time. His phone is not working, so he will have to use mine.”

McKenzie is now awaiting April 29, 2020, when his substantive claim will be heard by the court.