Child support reform coming
New child support policy guidelines are in the works for Barbados that would set out minimum payments in relation to one’s profession, with penalties to be imposed for breaches.
News of this came from Chairman of the Family Law Council, Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, during her presentation this afternoon on The Law and Society at the opening of a two-day national consultation on The Changing Barbadian Society at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Justice Cornelius disclosed that the council was in the process of articulating child support guidelines and that a policy paper was being prepared on reforming the relevant law. The judge said that long-term recommendations for a general reform of the Family Law Act, already presented to Government, should be implemented as a matter of urgency.
However, the judicial officer said the council considered that in the short term, the consolidation of legislation dealing with children should be embraced as part of such consolidation.
Alternatively, she suggested there could be two pieces of legislation, “dealing with child care and maintenance, giving joint jurisdiction to the High Court and Magistrates’ Court in matters relating to care and support of children, transferring to the Supreme Court complex cases involving custody and access not suitable for summary determination, allowing the magistrate’s court to continue to exercise summary jurisdiction in respect of child support, but with the assistance of child support guidelines”.
“We are presently in the process of trying to articulate the child support guidelines; and we are presently in the process of drafting a policy paper with regard to this reform,” revealed the Family Law Council head.
She announced, too, that making provision for parties to agree to parenting plans where this is appropriate and requiring judicial officers to have regard to domestic violence in a number of specific ways was also proposed.
She stressed that the best interest of the child was the primary and paramount consideration in proceedings. The judge told the consultation that instead of having a unitary jurisdiction for family law relating to children, the council was also looking at enhancing the enforcement measures for the collection of maintenance.
“And these measures on which we will seek public consultation will be as draconian, … as mild in some circumstances as refusal of various licences if you have arrears of maintenance – drivers’ licences is one common one in Canada; as severe as refusing permission … to travel outside of the jurisdiction where arrears are owing. There are a range of measures that we are suggesting,” warned the judge.
Justice Cornelius announced, as well, proposals for a “settled and specific table” for the calculation of maintenance.
“What we hope to do is to have a table. What we called child support guidelines, which will specifically look at income, cost of living, income differentials among different strata in society and different occupations and professions and to set out the minimum amount of maintenance payable,” she pointed out.
This provision, she added, would allow persons, without going to court, to and determine what amounts of maintenance were payable. (EJ)