Child born without a marriage

When I was a teenager I had sexual intercourse with a girl and got a child with her. Since I was still in school, I did not marry her. Recently I learnt that my child was attending secondary school but staying with her grandmother and her mother is married to another man. Last year I went to visit my child’s grandmother in order to take my daughter but the grandmother refused. She claimed that I did not marry my daughter’s mother so I have no right to claim the child. Can you guide me if I can claim the right to my daughter in a Court of law?
HS, Morogoro

We are sorry to say so but it is quite shameful and odious that after all these years of your irresponsible behaviour and neglect, you suddenly, one day, wake up and decide to claim your child.

Chapter 8 of the Customary Law (Declaration) Order, 1963, addresses the issue of a child born without a recognised marriage. The Order provides that a child born without a marriage belongs to the parents of her/his mother and not the father. If the father wants to take the child he must do so before the mother stops lactating. Alternatively, the father must marry the mother of the child if she is not yet married. If the father does not want to marry the mother, he must pay maintenance cost of the child from the date the child was born if he was not providing the maintenance cost before claiming the child. It is the mother of the child who is given power by law to declare who is the father of the child. In your case, and with the irresponsible behaviour of yours, notwithstanding that you were ‘in school’, you seem to have done neither.

You should consult a lawyer for further guidance.