The duty of parents to provide for the maintenance of their children, is a principle of natural law; an obligation laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own proper act, in bringing them into the world: for they would be in the highest manner injurious to their issue, if they only gave their children life, that they might afterwards see them perish… – Blackstone (Commentaries, book 1, chapter XVI)
In Barbados, the Family Law Act Cap. 214 of the Laws of Barbados (‘the Act’) provides for the right to maintenance of a party to a marriage or union other than marriage as well as for the right to maintenance of children of the marriage or of the union. According to the Act, maintenance means “the provision of money, property and services, and includes (a) in respect of a child, provision for the child’s education and training to the extent of the child’s ability and talents. It should be noted that either party to the marriage may apply for maintenance for the child or children”.
According to Section 39 of the Act ““union other than marriage” or “union” means the relationship that is established when a man and a woman who, not being married to each other, have cohabited continuously for a period of 5 years or more and have so cohabited within the year immediately preceding the institution of the proceedings”. A child of the marriage, according to Section 3 (1) of the Act, includes a child adopted after the marriage of the husband and wife and a child of both the husband and wife born before their marriage.
Section 51 of the Act states that the parties to a marriage, or union other than a marriage, are liable, according to their respective financial resources, to maintain the children of the marriage or of the union who are unmarried and have not attained the age of 18 years. It is useful to note that the court may also make an order for maintenance with respect to a child who has attained the age of 18 years if the provision of maintenance is necessary to enable the child to complete his education or if the child is mentally or physically handicapped.
Section 54 (3) (b) of the Act provides that the order should specify the period for which it is in force or until a particular day. Moreover, section 54 (1) states that in determining whether to make an order for maintenance of a child or in determining the period for which the order should remain in force or the amount of any payment to be made under the order, the court should consider the following:
“(i) the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of the child,
(ii) the financial needs of the child; and
iii) the manner in which the child is being, and in which the parties to the marriage or union expected the child to be, educated or trained.”
The court should also take into account the following and other factors which are listed under section 53 (2): “the financial needs and obligations of each of the parties; the responsibilities of either party to support any other person; the eligibility of either party for a pension, allowance, or benefit under any Act or rule, or under any superannuation fund or scheme, or the rate of any such pension, allowance, or benefit being paid to either party; the duration of the marriage or union other than a marriage, and the extent to which it has affected the earning capacity of the party whose maintenance is under consideration”.
It should be noted that the decree nisi of dissolution of marriage will not become absolute until the Court is satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for the welfare of the children who are under eighteen years of age.
– Kara-Je Kellman