Know your rights
Assess the reasons for laws to protect the family in social situations. Laws related to: (a) Divorce (b) Inheritance (c) Domestic violence (d) Childcare (e) Legal separation
WHAT IS FAMILY LAW?
Family law encompasses those laws which try to prevent or resolve common disputes arising from the nature and functions of families. Family law encompasses a broad range of legal topics involving marriage and children; laws dealing with matters of significant impact on family; relationships – particularly divorce, childcare, inheritance, legal separation and abuse.
Laws are needed to protect every member of a family in every society. For example, we must protect our children. We must prevent child labour – in cases where children are allowed to work regular working hours for wages or beg money on the streets to help support the family; to ensure that children inherit what rightfully belongs to them on the death of their parents; and to prevent parents, relatives, family friends and other persons from physically and emotionally abusing the children.
Jamaica passed a detailed child protection law in 2003 – The Child Care and Protection Act. The act provides definitions of child abuse and neglect, procedures for responding to allegations, and judicial remedies. The act mandates that the child’s views be considered when the child is of sufficient age and maturity to form his or her own views. Further, the act creates the position of ‘children’s advocate’, who will serve as legal representatives to a child if it appears to the court that the child needs representation and if the child consents to the representation.
CHILDREN AND THE LAW
Children have been neglected in many societies until their well-being came under threat in recent times. The attacks on children have captured the attention of Caribbean governments, which has moved swiftly to implement the Child Care and Protection Act. This act provides definitions of child abuse and neglect, procedures for responding to allegations and judicial remedies. In essence, the childcare protection act seeks to protect the welfare of the child.
Caribbean countries have in place a Child Maintenance Act; this act also seeks to protect the well-being of children. This act is designed to ensure that the parents/guardians maintain the children who are under the age of 18 years. It also ensures that single parents receive some financial support from the other parent. In the event that one of the parents refuses to carry out his/her responsibility towards the child, the court system can intervene and issue an order which, if violated, leads to imprisonment. It is also made clear that parents who leave young children unattended for a lengthy period, without a just reason, can be penalised by the hands of the law, worse yet if these children are harmed while neglected. What is child support?
Child support forms a part of childcare; it is court-ordered payments by a non-custodial parent to the individual with primary custody of the child. Child support is intended to provide for the child’s necessities and usually covers: Food, shelter and clothing. Health and medical care. Educational expenditures.
Inheritance is the property or money which has been passed from a dead person to his or her successor.
NB: In the past, there had been a legal discrimination against common-law wives and children born out of wedlock. In recent times, however, changes have been made abolishing any legal distinction between children born in wedlock and those born out of wedlock; as the song says, “Nuh bastard nuh dey again – everyone lawful”.
With the many common-law unions in our island, there are also laws which give equal status for inheritance to surviving common-law wives. Where the deceased person does not leave a will: It is said that the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire property if there is no child/children or next of kin. The surviving spouse is entitled to two-thirds of the property if the deceased leave behind a child, who would receive the remainder of the property. If there is more than one child, the spouse will receive one-third of the property.
This is the separation of a married couple by a direct order of the court. We must note that the couple remains married and maintains some rights as a spouse.
The divorce rate in the Caribbean may be acknowledged as alarming. One may also agree that new divorce laws have made it so much easier for couples to be granted a divorce. The ground for divorce is usually based on common acts such as infidelity, abuse, desertion, among other things. Partners also must show evidence in court that their marriage is broken down and irretrievable.
A divorce will be granted in cases where partners provide proof to the court that they have been living separate lives for a continuous period of not less than 12 months before the date of filing the application for the divorce .The court will not listen to cases where partners have been married for less than two years and have not made extensive use of marriage counselling in an attempt to reconcile their differences.
Divorce signals the ending of a union. However, the separation does not mean that all ties between both parties will disappear. There are instances where one party may not be able to fully support him/herself for varying reasons. Therefore, the other party will have to maintain that individual. The following reasons give credence to maintenance by one party: There are instances where one partner may not be able to engage in meaningful work because of physical, psychological or mental conditions. One party may also have to take care of children born in the marriage.
Many laws have been introduced to protect women and children particularly. These laws now need to be enforced and individuals need to report these acts that are carried out so that these perpetrators may be punished in order to help in preventing domestic violence.
1. Find out more about the laws in your country that deals with: a) Inheritance (b) Childcare (c) Legal separation (d) Divorce. (e) Domestic violence
2. State TWO reasons why you think these laws are necessary in your country.
Social Studies for CSEC: A Caribbean Examinations Council Study Guide