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Feb 9, 2024

News Five’s Dives Deep in Latest Children Act Amendment

A study done by UNICEF and the Statistical Institute of Belize five years ago revealed that only twenty-four percent of Belize’s children have the support of their fathers as they grow up. The study shows that a mother’s presence is not guaranteed as well, with only sixty-eight percent caring for their children in their first year of life. Established in 1998, the Families and Children Act provides a legal framework for advancing the rights of children, with their best interest as its main priority. From its inception, a man has been required to maintain the children of any of his children, under certain circumstances. That portion of the act is not as commonly known as the part that mandates a man to maintain his own children. But, it became the center of a heated debate inside the Senate on Thursday. The questions everyone now asking are, should grandparents be required, by law, to maintain their grandchildren in the absence of the biological parents, or should this section of the act be repealed and replaced? News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

On Thursday, members of the Senate debated a controversial amendment to the Families and Children Act.


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Lead U.D.P. Senator

“The biological father or the biological parents of a child under no circumstance should be relieved of the responsibility of maintaining their children and putting it on the shoulders of someone else.”


The legislative amendment was encouraged by a High Court ruling back in September, 2023. The court ruled that Section 48, Subsection 1 of the Families and Children Act was discriminatory.


Magali Marin-Young

Magali Marin-Young, SC, Attorney-at-law (File: September 7th, 2023)

“That section is discriminatory because it imposes a liability on a man to maintain not only his children, but also to maintain the children of his wife who are living with him at the time, whether are those children are his biologically or not.”


With the High Court ruling in favor of the unconstitutionality of that sub section, an amendment was necessary to reflect the judgment. But, a section that may not be common knowledge also exists under section forty-eight of the act. Section (b) states that every man is required to maintain his own child and the children of any child of his.


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“The point of the matter is that the law is there, the Families and Children Act in order to ensure that the child is maintained.  That is the first and foremost, responsibility that the act is putting on people, adults, when you are in a family situation. You could adopt a child, fostering a child and that child becomes what you call a child of the family.”


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, the Minister of Human Development, explained that the obligations to a child falls on the either the paternal or maternal grandfather under special circumstances.


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“But here is the thing that was mentioned, why would you place responsibility on a grandparent? We are not saying that elderly people should be minding picni, but if you read the thing carefully, and that is why I say, some of them just like to argue, if you read the thing carefully it is saying that you look at the responsibility only where the biological parent, mother or father, they cannot be located, they are ill or they are able to maintain themselves.”


Notwithstanding the fact that this has been enshrined in the laws of Belize for many years, Michael Peyrefitte, the Lead U.D.P. Senator, argued on Thursday that parliament has an opportunity to make certain changes.


Michael Peyrefitte

“The court is the court and if the court has made a decision, if they interpret the law in such a way as it has written and it comes with a result that we do not accept or 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.”


Paul Lopez

“Would Cabinet consider changing this approach if there is a great deal of public concern that warrants such?”


Dolores Balderamos- Garcia

“I would not say so, we have rich discussion in Cabinet about the social issues of our country and we have many people, all I would say, who are very concerned about our social issues.  But I wouldn’t say we should prolong the conversation. I say and I repeat the best interest of children has to come first.”

And, concerns did not only come from Senator Peyrefitte. Other senators raised issues of unfairness.


Kevin Herrera

Kevin Herrera, Business Senator

“I know there seems to be an effort to secure the wellbeing of children and I think that is a noble effort. But I think in the instance in the grandparent where it becomes mandatory where their children are unable to, whether through lose lifestyle practices; I think it is extremely unfair.”



Elena Smith

Elena Smith, NTUCB Senator

“I look at for example my own father who passed away a year or so ago. He was ninety-two. So just imagine my brother had children he didn’t take care of, my grandfather who was ninety-two, based on this law, this was the law back then, could have been held accountable for any child my brother didn’t take care of. So, how then could my poor father, the grandfather of these children, not working anymore, being ninety, ninety-one, ninety-two take care of these children.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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