Notes From The Margin

July 19, 2007

What About The Rights Of The Father?

Filed under: Barbados,Barbados Media,Caribbean,family,Fathers' Rights,law — notesfromthemargin @ 2:08 am

The public relations committee of the Family Law Council held a press conference this week, our best guess is they were trying to counter the perception that Barbados’ law courts have an inherent bias against men in family matters. In this they failed miserably.

To quote the Nation news story:

“ABOUT 99 per cent of the men who challenge the paternity of children in child maintenance cases turn out to be the biological fathers.

Magistrate Faith Marshall-Harris, who is assigned to the juvenile and domestic courts, said men abused the court system by using DNA testing as a tactic to avoid paying child support for as long as possible…. (snip)

…”Some men unfortunately, protest paternity because they know if they do that, that will put us back several months before they have to do anything,” Marshall-Harris said.”


Now, we’re not saying that such abuse doesn’t happen. However, it would seem to us that before accepting what really is a lifetime financial and emotional committment the prudent thing to do would be to ensure that it is in fact your responsibility. For a family court magistrate to dismiss this as a delaying tactic is not a particularly good illustration of lack bias on the part of the law.


There’s more…


Later in the same press conference the Magistrate continued….


“It was said recently, that men do not have a legal right to approach the magistrates’ courts for custody. That is not strictly true. What happens is that a man does not have a right from his original application to apply for custody. In other words, he has to wait for a woman to apply for maintenance then to say rather than pay her maintenance, can I have custody of this child.”

In a nutshell, what’ she’s saying is that a biological father has no rights if the mother does not want maintenance from the man in question. A father’s rights stem from economics, not biology under the current act.


Now just so we’re clear, we believe a man should shoulder his responsibilities. If the child is yours, you must pay, and your support should not only be financial but you should play a significant role in shaping that child into a responsible well rounded adult. There is no justification for a deadbeat dad. However we also believe that the laws currently governing the rights of fathers in Barbados are woefully outdated. (as admitted by the good magistrate)


Rather than defending an inadequate, archaic act that is almost victorian in its approach to parenting roles, it would be far more productive for the Family Law Council to be in the forefront of lobbying for a new act that recognises the rights of both parents equally.





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