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Jamaica Gleaner - - YL - MAU­REEN CAMP­BELL Con­trib­u­tor Mau­reen Camp­bell is an in­de­pen­dent con­trib­u­tor. Send ques­tions and com­ments to kerry-ann.hep­burn@glean­


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


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 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

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