Changes to Family Law Act
Barbados is moving to ensure that the rights of spouses and children in relation to matrimonial property are not curtailed by death or divorce.
In seeking to amend the Family Law Act in the Lower House today Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite said his concern was for several Barbadians who needed immediate relief.
And with that in mind, the Family Law (Amendment) Bill 2013, which he introduced, was making provision for: widening the scope of the law in respect of the alteration of propertyinterests in instances of divorce or separation, authorizing the courts to order the transfer or settlement of property for the maintenance of children, and ensuring claims relating to maintenance in property proceedings were not abated if a partner died.
The amendments also speak to empowering the courts to delay the grant of a divorce until property matters have been settled, and to ensure that marriage counsellors assigned by the courts are officially approved.
Admitting that it often moved him emotionally to see men or women lose their family law rights, Brathwaite said he was aware that since 1999 the Family Law Council had been calling for changes in this jurisdiction, especially in the event of a partner’s death and the subsequent provision for maintenance of children.
Brathwaite said while elements of maintenance concerns had been incorporated into the 2002 amendment to the Family Law Act that featured the controversial “stepfather provision”,successive family law councils had made further recommendations.
Given the longevity of some of the bill’s matters, Brathwaite said he expected the wholehearted support of the Opposition since lawyers and MPs on both sides of the House would have bombarded at times with matters of family law rights and entitlements.
He cited an example of a common-law partner who had helped to build a house and business with her partner of 20 years, but after moving out of the house for some months she thenfound that the passage of time had eclipsed her rights to the property.
Brathwaite also said the bill was in keeping with Government’s establishment of a separate family ministry since 2008, along with last October’s supplementary resolution for a special $400 000 child maintenance fund to ensure that single mothers would have access to immediate funds if maintenance was delayed by delinquent fathers.
He also informed that the Chief Justice was looking at the possibility of a separate family court. He said the new proposals in the bill hinged basically on the breakdown of matrimonialrelationships, which this Government wanted to reduce while ensuring marriages and families thrived in the face of attacks on traditional family values.
“I have asked the Family Law Council to let’s engage Barbadians widely on the amendments so as to get the widest consensus,” he told the House. (RJ)