Landmark Court Victory Leads to Amendment of Families and Children’s Act
It was five months ago when the well-known retired businessman, Steve Schulte was victorious in the High Court when Justice Martha Alexander deemed a section of the Families and Children’s Act unconstitutional. 77-year-old Schulte was inspired to challenge the act after his 27-year-old wife took him to court to maintain two of her children that were not biologically his. This was back in 2018, when the court ruled in the wife’s favor, and ordered Schulte to pay five thousand six hundred and seventy five dollars monthly for the two children. Feeling jilted and discriminated against Schulte filed a challenge in court and won. This has launched a change in legislation that makes the law applicable to both parents and not just the father. The matter was discussed in the Senate earlier today with the Senator of Government Business, Eamon Courtenay simplifying the amendment.
Eamon Courtenay, Leader of Government Business: “This comes out of a decision of the Supreme Court where the law as it is put on the man only and not the woman the obligation to maintain the child of his former spouse even after they had separated and divorced and they were no longer living together and she had moved on. The law said that the man should maintain that child. The Supreme Court found that to be unconstitutional because the obligation was placed only on the man and not on the woman in similar circumstances so it was discriminatory and so the law here is seeking to clarify the position to put the obligation on the man and woman in these particular circumstances.”
Lead Opposition Senator, Michael Peyrefitte, rose in this afternoon’s session to object to portions of the legislation. He additionally pointed out the unique position that the Senate finds itself in where it can make the law, and not necessarily make amendments based on court judgements.
Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Lead Senator: “I do not support. The court is the court and if the court has made a decision if they interpret the law in such a way as it is written and it comes with a result that is not what we accept or what we like with all due respect to the court we are parliament and they can make a decision in the high court but we in parliament we make the law. This is an opportunity Madam President to make a law that is sustainable to people and makes sense. The laws that we are trying to pass here today in my view are very very egregious. It may seem noble, it may seem like you’re trying to find some way but it is tough because you’re not considering consequences. Just like when you want to have a person be in school until they’re sixteen which is a noble concept but if you don’t have the infrastructure to support it then you can’t accomplish it. I’m 85 years old and I can only run five miles a day as opposed to the ten that I run today, I’m receiving a pension and small social security and my son who is not able to maintain himself has three, four children that he doesn’t maintain that falls on me as an elderly grandfather with limited means ? You get to the same problem. How can you expect people to take on the responsibilities of another human being ? You know Madam President the great Dean Lindo once coined a phrase, he’s the first person I heard it from actually, “if you die they won’t bury me you know ?” If you have a child as an adult you’re responsibility is for that child. You cannot transfer that to another individual by law. Usually as custom Madam President we in our society grandparents play a huge role in the rearing and caring for children but now you’re making it by law that they have to. How ? How can you put that ? We have an opportunity I don’t care if that’s the law now, I don’t care if that’s what the Supreme Court or the High Court said, we have an opportunity to fix it now. We are parliament and we need to ensure that we don’t burden grandparents to have a law that mandates them to look after children that they didn’t make, that they didn’t make.”
Senator for the private sector, Kevin Herrera, also weighed in on the discussion, sharing similar views as Senator Peyrefitte.
Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “Senator Peyrefitte is right. You know when grandparents are in their retirement and may not be earning any type of substantial income, maybe a pension or something, maybe their savings that could be depleted very quickly if they have to get into that whole child rearing exercise or obligation again. So I think that’s certainly an area that needs to be addressed, very important area to be addressed. The other part of it Madam President I think that to ask someone who goes into a union to be legally obligated for children that they’re not the biological parent for to me is a little unfair and to me really lets the biological parent of that child off the hook and in no way should the biological parent be not obligated to take care of his or her children throughout the years when those children need to be taken care of through the age of 18 or through school or whatever it is. But I think that is extremely important and I think that this type of approach Madam President will actually in my view lead people to avoid that type of situation because it really brings a burden and an unfair responsibility to persons. Again I understand completely that there is a need to take care of children, there is a need to take care of the vulnerable, there is a need to make sure that the welfare of children is looked after and secured but I also think we have to be fair in the process. And I think the way this bill is presented I think will not achieve what it seeks to achieve.”
We will have more from the Senate in tomorrow’s newscast.