Attorney General Dale Marshall says a dedicated Family Court is on the cards although it will not become a reality in this financial year.
However, he told Parliament on Friday that once established, the court will be critical to quickly addressing family disputes.
“We’ve identified the facility’s physical building, but I regret to say that we do have to do a few more things before we can put this court into motion. What can we do in the meantime? We’re training our judges by having three dedicated judges who will do nothing more than family law matters.
“We feel that will bring benefits to the system but I have to tell you that we still have a long way to go. I wish I could promise you that we would have it available in this financial year, but that is very, very definitely not the case,” Marshall said.
Noting that the caseload regarding family matters is currently carried by the Magistrates’ Court, the AG pointed out that one of the major challenges was a lack of resources.
He explained these will be addressed with the introduction of the family court.
“The concept would be that we will have a family court staffed, first of all, by judges. It will have its own registrar, it will have its own social workers attached to the family court … We want this specialised court to have its own social workers to do investigations. It has to have its own counsellor because often the problem does not need a judge to settle. You know, we want it to have mediators. We’re drawing significantly from the experience of Trinidad that has gone this way,” Marshall continued.
In addition, he said, the court will have temporary childcare services for parents who have no choice but to bring their children along.
In the meantime, the Attorney General said his department will soon introduce a card for mothers to access child maintenance payments.
“One of the innovative things that I think we’re on the cusp of rolling out is called court pay, where you can actually put money on a card and you will know if there’s any money on the card, so you don’t have to suffer that indignity but equally, you don’t have to go and let anybody count out a few dollars and so on for you.
“But if there’s one thing that I think we simply have to reform is how we deal with the delivery of justice in the family context, and I think I can honestly say that it’s an area that we’ve not made as much progress as we need to make, but we’re getting there and I will commit to this chamber and to all of Barbados that is the area that will see our next level of attention,” Marshall said. (JB)