Marshall-Harris at forefront of child laws reform

A former magistrate says she is spearheading legal reforms in Barbados regarding the custody and access of men to their children.

Faith Marshall-Harris, addressing a panel discussion on Fatherhood: Defining the Role of Men in Today’s Society last night said a basic key to the functioning of society was to have the man playing an integral role in the lives of his children.

That role, she said, had to go beyond feeding, clothing and providing material things, but that of a loving, nurturing parent as well.

“Let me state, therefore that I am currently in the process of proposing and guiding, championing law reform in relation to all these matters and principally let me address one of the areas because I know these laws are vast.

“Let me be specific about custody and access. One of the things I am hoping the new laws will do is recognise that men are equally capable of rearing and nurturing, which is one of the ways that the archaic view of things was skewed. One of the things I think the new laws will also look at is making sure that it is recognised that children must always have access to two parents and that the access to a father is vital to the total and full development of a child,” she told a small gathering in the Queen’s Park Steel Shed.

The attorney said she believed the new laws would bring Barbados in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which outlined similar provisions.

“Our new laws will also look at addressing the sort of problems that men encounter when they choose to be in a particular relationship with a child and they are being denied that association. One of the things we are going to try to do is ensure that children do not suffer because a particular union has failed, which is something that we often see.

“The laws will also be looking at areas where the judicial approach will be tempered to some extent, by guidelines. For example, right now when a woman applies for maintenance in court, the amount of maintenance is determined by the person sitting on the bench who takes a few factors into consideration, but it comes down to discretion.

“One of the things the new laws will help to do is issue a set of guidelines that say that scientifically we have done an actual study and this is how much it takes for a child to be comfortably raised given your particular means; so it is not so much of a guessing game and so men don’t feel they are going into court and being disadvantaged by the court. So they know what to expect. That is just some of the areas we are hoping to improve the lot of children and their parents.” (LB)

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