Senator says paternity must be established in maintenance cases
An Opposition Senator has suggested that every application for maintenance in which paternity is questioned should be accompanied by a DNA test.
Wilfred Abrahams, who is an attorney-at-law, offered the suggestion during debate on the Maintenance (Amendment) Bill 2014 in the Upper House today.
He said the cost of such a test – which could run as high as $1,500 – should be borne by the parents, or the state if the parents could not afford to pay.
Recounting a situation in which a woman had applied for and obtained maintenance from two different men, through two different courts, for the same child, and was found out after she attempted to collect from a third man, Abrahams said DNA testing – which was formalized in legislation before then – took the uncertainty out of paternity.
“Some women used to abuse the system . . . The DNA testing has now removed that. I believe that in every application for maintenance where [paternity] is questioned DNA testing should be ordered,” he said.
“At this time DNA testing would have to be split between the parents. In some cases people cannot afford the cost of the test and where you have two parties that cannot afford the cost, the state should provide legal aid.”
Abrahams insisted that it was important for a child to know who his or her parents were.
“If my father dies and I am entitled to share in his estate and my paternity has not been established, then I may actually lose out on a benefit that I am otherwise entitled to,” he said as he sought to explain the implications of not having that knowledge.
In her contribution, Government Senator Verla De Peiza expressed concern about the “prohibitive” cost of DNA testing.
“What DNA testing will do is bring peace of mind . . . I have had instances, because the first question that is asked [of the man] in court is ‘is this your child?’ and sometimes the answer is ‘I am not sure’. It is not an outright ‘no’. And he may have legitimate reasons for not being sure. We cannot be naïve about these things,” she said.
“But my concern about DNA testing is its prohibitive cost. As it stands right now, as far as I am aware, though the sampling is done in Barbados the testing is done overseas. I also wonder why because in the criminal context the forensic sciences centre here in Barbados in Culloden Road has capabilities for performing DNA testing in that context.”
De Peiza said she hoped a time was coming soon when testing was done at the Government laboratory.