Parents able to apply for maintenance
Either parent of a child, and even grandparents and other guardians, will be able to apply for maintenance for their charges under an amended Maintenance Act.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite gave that assurance in the House of Assembly today while moving the Second Reading of the Maintenance (Amendment) Bill 2014.
“There are many families where the child is raised by the grandmother or aunt or any relative and they can also benefit from maintenance,” he said.
The St Philip South MP took 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.
Brathwaite 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.
“Over the years we have been called upon to address that issue, to ensure that there is equal access to children. Assuming that this Bill is passed today, the question of access to the children will be addressed naturally by the court,” he said.
“What we are providing is that where this [maintenance] order is being sought, the question of access to the child is addressed at the same time. This has been a complaint across Barbados for many years. Access to children has been addressed in this Bill.”
During his presentation, the Attorney General also lamented that there were mothers who did not know the correct names of their children’s fathers or even who the fathers were.
Addressing the paternity issue, he said: “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.”
The Attorney General suggested that future amendments to the Maintenance Act should examine whether children who can afford it should look after their parents who are destitute.
Brathwaite also suggested that in an era of mass movement within the region, the Maintenance Act should be amended to cover children of non-nationals who returned to their homelands.
The Maintenance (Amendment) Bill 2014 was passed tonight.