JIS News

Debate on the Maintenance Bill began in the House of Representatives, yesterday (November 8). Development Minister, Dr. Paul Robertson who piloted the Bill, described the legislation as “pertinent”, noting that it served to, among other things, place equal maintenance obligations on both sexes as spouses and parents.
He said the Bill, which is a companion legislation to the 2004 Property Rights of Spouses Act, has been in gestation for a lengthy period and marked the culmination of a lengthy process in the examination and adoption of family law reform proposals in Jamaica.
Dr. Robertson said the recommendations embodied in the Bill are reflective of the proposals made by the Family Law Committee and was the result of much consultation. The report of the committee also stressed that maintenance should not be automatic, but should be determined on the basis of financial need and liability.
“The question of maintenance will not be an automatic thing, it depends very much on what is the nature of the relationship which existed and the question of the ability to maintain and the obligations which have been entered into,” the Minister explained.
Dr. Robertson said based on the widespread nature of the consultations, it could not be “said that the matter was not properly (ventilated) and discussed”.
The Bill, which was debated in the Senate over several weeks, seeks to place equal maintenance obligations on both sexes as spouses and parent. The proposed changes are part of a package of family law reforms and serve to confer obligations on spouses to maintain each other.
In addition, the proposed modifications will enable a married man to apply for maintenance upon dissolution of the marriage, which was previously the exclusive right of a married woman.
Also under the Act, “spouse” has been defined to include a single man and woman who have lived and cohabited with each other for a period not less than five years as if they were in law, husband and wife. Debate on the Bill will resume on a date to be set.