Sunday, April 14, 2024

Act a ‘blow’ to dads


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by Trevor YearwoodMagistrate Barbara Cooke-Alleyne has called for the Maintenance Act to be amended to give fathers a better deal.  Under the act, only women can claim “child support” from estranged spouses, she noted.  “The time has come to change the act, to revamp it to let men come and apply for maintenance,” Cooke-Alleyne said during a panel discussion in the new Supreme Court headquarters on Wednesday night.  Earlier, chairman of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA), Ralph Boyce, had described the act as “very much out of date and very discriminatory against men”.
He said it dealt a blow to unemployed and other “struggling” fathers, as well as men earning a lot less than mothers who were not maintaining their offspring.  “A lot of men are surprised that a man, even if he has (been taking care of) the child for ten years, has no legal right (to maintenance under the act),” he said.  “He can’t go to the court and say I want to have maintenance from this lady.” Boyce said the limitations of the act meant men would have to dig into their pockets to seek maintenance through the High Court, while women had a cheap legal option.  Registrar of the Supreme Court, Marva Clarke, linked the limitations of the act to the social situation of the period in which it was passed – the mid-1980s.
“In those days, there were few men who had custody of their children,” she pointed out, as she moderated the programme. “The time has come now, yes, for us to move on, but remember where the act started.”  Cooke-Alleyne also noted that the act was “silent on access” of fathers to their children who were being raised by the mothers.  She said that most men today saw themselves as being more than a financial provider and “want to be hands-on fathers . . . involved in the rearing of their children”.  According to Cooke-Alleyne, magistrates cannot force mothers to give fathers access to the children.
The topic of the panel discussion was Do Men And Women Have Equal Rights Under The Maintenance Act?  The panellists also included senior probation officer Stella Scantlebury and attorney-at-law Dawn Shield-Searles.  The discussion was one of the highlights of the Registration Department’s celebration of its 123rd anniversary.

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