A mother of two young children is now owed $81,000 in unpaid child maintenance over the past eight years, her attorney claims.
While complaining bitterly that the woman was yet to receive “one blind cent” of the outstanding amount, attorney-at-law Arthur Holder Sunday night suggested that the two delinquent dads –– who both reside in St John –– were not the only ones to blame, since neither had yet been summoned to appear in court.
“It is a ridiculous thing,” Holder told Barbados TODAY after initially highlighting the plight of the unemployed woman and her family at a political meeting of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Sunday night.
“You know what is eight years and you not getting a cent? It is a disgusting thing,” he said, while blaming Government and in particular Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite for the current shortage of court marshals in the country’s legal system.
Holder, who is preparing to contest the next general election on a BLP ticket, suggested to those attending the Opposition’s meeting at the George Lamming School that Brathwaite could easily remedy the situation by invoking Section 9 of the Special Constables Act.
The statute currently provides for island constables to issue summonses in the same way that court marshals do.
However, Holder complained that while his client and her children –– ages six and nine –– were being made to suffer, the Attorney General continued to sit on his hands with there being no immediate end in sight to the desperate family’s eight-year plight.
Efforts to reach Brathwaite for comment today were unsuccessful.
However, back in 2014 when he tabled the Maintenance (Amendment) Bill, Brathwaite had taken the opportunity to remind fathers of the roles they needed to play in their children’s lives.
“We accept that, as a society, there are many single-parent households and we must remind fathers of their responsibility which goes beyond paying money for the child. It is about being a father. When you drill down into the experience of many young men, that male guidance is missing. We want to encourage all fathers to be fathers even if the relationship with the mother has ended. There is something about the male bond that is innate,” he said at the time.
Brathwaite had also recalled a concern repeatedly expressed by the Men’s Educational Support Association that fathers were asked to pay maintenance but were being deprived of access to their children.
He had also lamented that there were mothers who did not know the correct names of their children’s fathers or even who the fathers were.
“With the advent of DNA testing, Government is making it easier by ensuring that the cost would be shared by both parties. I know first-hand of a case where a gentleman was paying maintenance of a son for 14 years, and because of a default in paying up the maintenance a test was done and it was shown that he was not the father. There are, unfortunately, many incidences where paternity is an issue,” Braithwaite had said in addressing the issue of paternity.
Nearly three years later, an upset Holder told Barbados TODAY that very little had been done since then to address the plight of those children whose fathers had abandoned their responsibilities, leaving them at the mercy of the court.
He explained that in his client’s case, the $81,000 was broken down into $54,000 and $27,000 for each of the two fathers of the children whose identities and that of their mother was deliberately withheld for their protection. However, the outspoken attorney-at-law revealed that the mother had been unemployed for a while and forced to rely on welfare.
However, Holder said even that process has been fraught with difficulties, despite his numerous interventions on their behalf.
He also warned that his client’s situation was just the tip of the iceberg, since they were many more families in legal distress.
“I am told that no summonses are served in certain districts. So for example, for the past two-and-a-half years they ain’t got no marshal for St John,” said Holder, adding that “for the past three years there have been 23 vacancies in the court process office in relation to marshals in this country”.