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May 24, 2023

A Mother’s Fight for Custody of Her Daughter

Amani Flowers

On Tuesday night, a Belize City woman took to her social media page to shed light on an ongoing issue involving custody of her four-year-old daughter.  Ashanti Englewood has been before the Family Court several times during the past three years in a desperate attempt to get back her daughter or, at the least, enjoy visiting rights on days when she is allowed to see the little girl.  When Engleton discovered that the child’s father had removed her from school and has taken her to the United States, she was beside herself with emotions. Earlier today, we spoke with Engleton and her attorney. Together, they explained how they believe the Family Court failed the mother of three. They are now exploring all legal options to have the child returned to Belize. While it is not customary for us to show photos of minors in our newscast, for the purpose of locating her daughter, Engleton and her attorney have granted permission for us to use the images.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Four-year-old Amani Flowers was removed from preschool several weeks ago.  The little girl finds herself in the middle of a bitter custody battle involving her parents.  It is believed that she is with her father, somewhere in the United States.  Ashanti Engleton gave her mother temporary custody of her children at the start of the pandemic in 2020.  It was also the beginning of her parental headaches.


Ashanti Engleton

Ashanti Engleton, Parent

“It all began in 2020, at the beginning of COVID.  I was working and living behind the apartment behind JEC and even though COVID was happening, I still had to work to keep a roof over my head for me and my kids and I made the decision to have my kids go to my mom in Ladyville while I continued working, risking my life, basically, to provide for them.”


During that time, Alwin Flowers, seen here with Amani, reportedly took possession of the child without the knowledge or consent of her mother.  According to Engleton, her mother surrendered custody of the baby and did not inform her of that decision.


Ashanti Engleton

“Every time I would speak to her, she would always tell me, “The babies are fine, everything is okay, don’t stress yourself.”  At the time, I was just mainly working to pay my rent, you know.  It was very hard but I managed to pull it off and then I was able to take some stuff to my mom, for my kids, and when I went there, I was so excited to see my daughter, [only] to find out [that] she wasn’t there.   And my mother told me that she gave my baby to her dad which was not supposed to happen because he only had visitation on the weekends.”


That would eventually set off a custody battle that Engleton subsequently lost.  Attorney Tiffany Cadle explains that what took place at the Family Court was an ex parte hearing.  In essence, the session was undertaken on behalf of only one of the parties involved in the matter.


Tiffany Cadle

Tiffany Cadle, Attorney-at-law

“I remember very clearly because I have always been involved with this case.  She had another child, so she went for a C-section and the C-section didn’t go as planned.  They gave her the date to return to court.  Everybody knows that when a woman has a C-section it is not just a walk in the park.  Everybody knows that that step at the Family Court is not an easy step to walk up.  She had some complications with the C-section and she wasn’t doing well and on the day, she tried to call the office, the Family Court, to tell them that she wasn’t able to make it because she cannot walk up that stairs.  She’s literally still recovering from the C-section.”


Ashanti then reached out to Flowers and asked him to relay a message to the court that she wouldn’t be able to attend the session.  While she already had a babysitter for Amani, she was advised to leave the child with her father for an extra week.


Tiffany Cadle

“And then I said to her, “But why would you have somebody look after Amani?  Why don’t you leave Amani with the dad?  What if something happens, it will go bad for your case, the custody case.  And then she said, “You think?”  I said, “Yes, let her.  I said it would look very good as well that you are a reasonable person.”  And he asked for another week and he used that opportunity to go to the court and say to the court that he had the child with him the entire time, that the mother abandoned the child.”


Somehow, Flowers was able to convince the court that Ashanti Engleton was an unfit mother.  She says that there was no real investigation to confirm that claim.


Ashanti Engleton

“There’s no real evidence provided.  There was no real investigation provided or done.  No one came to my home, no one asked me any question, no one came to see the condition to make sure that my kids are okay, to see that I am a fit mom.  Everybody knows that I am a fit mom.  I am an entrepreneur, I have been doing nails for fifteen years.  I’ve been in situations where I was homeless before, but that was because of my family.  I keep believing that my family are family and because I have that mindset, I’m thinking they’re going to come around eventually.  But dehn ya people, dehn bones hard.”


The situation has become dire, prompting Flowers to take to social media to vent her frustration with the justice system.


Ashanti Engleton

“Last night, I made a live, sharing more details about, basically just venting my frustration because I’ve been dealing with it for two years and I noh know weh fi do.  I noh know.  I try everything legally and nothing di work and da like di system just di fail everybody.”


Tiffany Cadle

“When you’re dealing with family and children, you always should act in the best interest of the child.  It is not about the father, it is not about the mother.  It’s always in the best interest of the child and as officers of the court, that should always be in the forefront of our mind, not any malicious, or vindictive or vexatious attitude from either party.”


In a social media post responding to Ashanti Engleton, Alwin Flowers wrote, “I have had sole/full custody of my child for three years, no contact nor contribution financially nor physically with her mother until now when I’m giving my daughter the best possible life she deserves”.


Tiffany Cadle

“We will do everything that we can and in our power to try to get the child back to Belize.  It’s just not fair.  A child needs her mother and you can’t tell me that oh, I’m giving the child a better life in America.  Yes, you’re giving the child a better life in America but then, what about her having a relationship with her mother?”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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