Problems affecting Barbadian families are so difficult and immediate that Government cannot afford to wait on a comprehensive set of related recommendations.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite confessed today that as a result of his own “stubbornness” to resolve issues such as marriage rights, the right to property, and enforcement of maintenance orders, Parliament was today discussing changes to the Family Law Act.
Brathwaite said this was even though a consultant was working on additional improvements and the Family Law Council had indicated it had further changes in mind.
The St. Philip South MP said the changes discussed by members of the Lower House were recommended by the council since 1999 and thought it prudent to bring them now.
“My concern and the concern of the Cabinet was the fact that in the meantime there are several Barbadians who are in call of immediate relief and such relief will be given once this Honourable House agrees to the proposals being brought before us this morning. It moves me to see a big man or a woman who could be my mother or father in tears because of matters,” he said.
“So because of these real hardships I thought, and we thought, that whilst we recognise that the proposals this morning will not cover all of the issues that have been brought to us by members of the public and by practitioners … we could not wait for a new act because there are real present problems that we want to address.”
Brathwaite told the House had he “asked the Family Law Council to let us engage the public of Barbados widely on future proposed amendments to the Family Law Act, so that we can build consensus”.
“At the end of the day we do want, in terms of our legislation, … an act where the rights of all parties are paramount, but in particular we want to focus on the rights of the children of any relationship, and we want to ensure that their rights are seen as paramount,” he said.
“And it is unfortunate that quite often when there is a breakdown in a relationship that in fact it seems to be also a breakdown in the relationship between the father and his children or sometimes the mother and her children. We do not believe in fact that the children should be severely disadvantaged when there is a breakdown.”
Among the issues the legislation discussed today would addressed was maintenance for wives and ex wives, property rights for people in unions, and training for marriage counsellors.
“I can tell you as Attorney General that I have received correspondence from many individuals … who go to court for maintenance and who have to go back to court on several occasions for maintenance, only to find in fact that their husbands or ex husbands are not abiding by the maintenance order handed down by the High Court,” the official noted.
“And they have been saying to us that in fact they also have an issue, that whilst they recognise that we have addressed the issue of single women that in fact that you have … wives who are also having challenges in terms of receiving maintenance from their husbands or ex husbands and they wanted us to do something about that.” (SC)