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What Is Jamaica’s Family Court?


November 23, 2020 | By Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |

Perspective:

There has been a family Court in Jamaica for a long time. The name over the years and across the world may be different but their mission is almost the same. We in Jamaica, mainly associate this court with adoption, child custody, child abuse, Paternity disputes, Trauncy, children deemed uncontrollable, children in need of care and protection,  children found abused, children to be placed in state care etc.

Spousal Abuse

In recent times the Family Court seems to be used by couples, especially females to settle family disputes.  Is this the proper place to thrash out such matters?   This is a public court and as such private domestic matters are likely to be related publicly.  This to the public may be juicy selacious stuff if published in the tabloids or daily newspapers could help boost circulation and provide a basis for varandah or social media gossip. This may be good for openness and a means of championing a free press, but is there not the danger that this publicity may form the basis for long term damage to the family fabric?

Gag Order

Internationally acclained sub-ten 100 metres athlete Asafa Powell was in the news recently in a paternity matter. There should have been a gag order on such publication. Was there one that was violated?  We would like to know.  This could serve to undermine confidence in the court. Who leaked this matter to the press?

Publication

A times court ask for a gag order or publication ban be instituted in these matters. Is this always obeyed?  For example a recent matter was broadcast by a leading media house with a YouTube account. Shameful indeed!

Victim

There is nothing to stop a spouse who due to jealousy or other related matters to want to use the Family Court to legitimatize their cunning or devious plot to tarnish the good name of their estranged mate.  A complaint can easily be fabricated and without prior consultation or communication, an innocent party can be dragged before the Family Court and with adverse publicity … careers, lives and characters, good name etc. can be ruined at the stroke of a pen.

What Are The Safeguards?

We will examine further the checks and balances that can make the court more acceptable.  There is certainly a need for a Family Court to settle thorny relationship issues which can be very complex.  There is bitterness at times and even violence between the parties. Emotions do get in the way. Most unfortunate to say the least. That is how it is internationally.  Family can be serious issues which can lead to even death. A Spouse can even sent access to another of their child.

Child Custody

In this regard there seems to be an over-arching desire to put the interest of the minor at the centre of such custody battles. Floyd Green former State Minister always stated this fact. Rightly so!

Perspective:

This debate will continue on the Family Court. We think Mediation and not an advesorial approach should be the route taken in the Family Court. It is about keeping families together. Should it not be so?

Whether in Jamaica, Canada or elsewhere, Family Courts tend to be child centred courts. What is in the best interest of the child especially in Children’s Custody battles.

Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a veteran journalist who has an eye for political and other family related matters of an international flavour.

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