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Senator Wilfred Abrahams

Government’s decision to update Barbados’ “woefully inadequate” Family Law Act is “ridiculous” because it is not comprehensive enough. That’s the view of former Barbados Bar Association President, Senator Wilfred Abrahams, who called for the matter to be returned to the House of Assembly to kick off wider consultation with the hope of attaining a comprehensive list of recommendations.

The Barbados Labour Party representative said bringing amendments based on recommendations 20 years old was wrong, and there were ambiguous aspects of the changes, including the rights of people in relationships, which would lead to lawsuits.

Abrahams was speaking in the Upper House today during debate on the amendments.

He said Government’s approach to the issue was “lazy” and that it should get updated information on the requirements for family law, including a new study, before proceeding.

“As a lawyer and someone who relies on the law and efficient legislation to make my living, it is ridiculous to seek to pass a piece of legislation on recommendations some 20 years old,” he said.

“Our Family Law Act is based on the Australian Family Law Act and a lot of the practises and the rules that we practice in the courts are based on the Australian law. Australia has moved way pass these proposed amendments.

“Some of the amendments make sense, some of them needed doing, but there are some of them that to my mind make no sense, but further, there are other deficiencies in the Family Law Act, there are other issues, that affect people in their marriages, that affect the rights of children, that affect the issues of maintenance, that have not actually been addressed.

“So if one considers holistically the full impact of the Family Law Act and the totality of the deficiencies in the Family Law Act it is a nonsense to attempt to pass six or seven or eight amendments and then shelve the Family Law Act again for another 20 years when there are about 25 to 30 amendments that are necessary,” he added.

The attorney-at-law was also concerned that if the amended act was approved with more than two dozen other needed changes outstanding, it would be some time before the additional improvements were introduced.

“We all know that the reform of legislation does not work like that. If these amendments are passed we are not coming back to the Family Law Act within the next 20 years, and that would be a travesty because the Family Law Act as it stands is woefully inadequate to seek to address the needs and the requirements of a 2013 Barbados,” he said.

Abrahams also said “another joke” was the way Government was seeking to make married couples get counseling before they divorced.

“It will work if the parties operate in good faith, I agree … but the reality is that by the time you get to the point of divorce half the time there is no good faith operating there,” he noted.

He also questioned the absence of specific qualification requirements for counsellors. (SC)

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