Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
There is one too many cases in the British Virgin Islands where parents neglect their financial duties owed to their children. This argument was put forward by Minister of Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton in the House of Assembly yesterday, March 16.
Hon. Skelton, who was speaking on the Child Maintenance and Access Act, 2016, which he piloted, lamented that the issue of child maintenance has been a major one facing the society for many years.
As it stands, there have been over 1,800 child maintenance case files recorded by the Magistrate's Court.
To this end, the Minister stated that the number only represents “a tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of children who suffer daily at the hands of parents who neglect their financial duties.”
Statistics provided by Hon. Skelton further revealed that over the last three years, the court received approximately 286 new child maintenance matters.
Figures further revealed that a total of fifty persons where incarcerated for child maintenance in 2016, with six of them still serving prison sentences as of today.
On this point, the Minister stated that the imprisonment of parents who neglect their financial obligations to their child(ren) does not fix the situation.
“Imprisonment contributes to overcrowding at the prison...The term of imprisonment does not distinguish the debt and arrears accumulated while the defaulter is in prison."
He continued, “The bill seeks to ensure that in addition to their moral obligation, each parent has a clear legal obligation to provide for and to participate in the upbringing of their child, regardless of gender, role and marital status.”
In addition to child maintenance, the bill also addresses a parent’s access to a child, where it provides for each parent and persons who assume responsibility for a child, to be entitled to have access to that child and allow the court to address the issue of access the very time a matter for child maintenance is being heard.
Under the bill, the court will be authorized to garnish wages of persons who fall short of maintaining their child, in addition to suspending their license and also a term of imprisonment.
Several other legislators made lengthy contribution to the bill, which was passed late last evening with amendments.