Thu | Aug 17, 2017

More protection for children in custody battles

Published:Monday | July 25, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Kamina Johnson Smith

The Government is seeking to better protect children entangled in custody disputes between parents, particularly in cases of abduction.

This includes strengthening the law which deals with the issue - the Children (Guardianship and Custody) (Amendment) Act, 2016 - which members of the Senate approved on Friday, following a five-hour debate.

The Bill seeks to give effect to the Government's decision to enact legislation to implement the terms of the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and to facilitate Jamaica's accession to it.

The Hague Convention aims to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. Piloting the Bill, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, stressed that "the time for this law has come," noting that while work on the legislation has continued across administrations, the matter has taken too long to be finalised.

"The location, recovery and return of abducted children are made more difficult because children are sometimes removed and taken to States with different legal systems, different cultural and social structures," she said.

Johnson Smith noted that the enactment of this law will allow for the expeditious return of children wrongfully removed from their custodial parent and usual place of residence.

"It will also bring an earlier end to the emotionally draining situations while providing legal certainty as much as possible in family law cases," she said.

She noted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has regularly received complaints from Jamaicans locally and in the Diaspora, as well as other nationals, about the wrongful removal of Jamaican children.

"There are currently three active court cases in the United States (US) involving children being moved by parents between Jamaica and the US and there are at least 10 other cases outside the court system, of which the Ministry is aware, involving Jamaican children being removed to or from or being retained in the Cayman Islands, United Kingdom and the US," she said.