New Civil Code gives children right to establish paternity

POSTED: 03/11/11 4:46 PM

Quarter of kids don’t know who their biological father is

St. Maarten – An astonishing 25 percent of children in Curacao does not have a father, Mr. Jan de Boer, a member of the Common Court of Justice revealed yesterday during a presentation at the cultural center about the draft civil code for country St. Maarten. The new code provides children with the option to go to court to establish the paternity of their biological father. Under the new law, children have the right to know who their biological father is, the right to child support and the right to establish legal ties..
DNA-testing enables children to get certainty about the identity of their father. “In the past your were never sure. Your daddy ain’t daddy but your daddy don’t know,” De Boer deadpanned.
The high rate of children who do not have their biological father in Curacao probably also rubs off on other countries in the Caribbean and by extension on St. Maarten. In Denmark, only 1.3 percent of children do not know their biological father and in the Netherlands the percentage is around 2. In the new code, De Boer said, the right of the child to know prevails over the right of the father.
The legislation has been in the works for fifteen years. De Boer, who is a member of the Common Court since 1998, and who is also a member of St. Maarten’s constitutional court, said that politicians in the Netherlands Antilles stalled the legislation because they themselves had children out of wedlock.
Children have the right to establish paternity also after their biological father’s death, but if they already have a legal father (the husband of their mother who has recognized the child), they are only able to establish paternity of their biological father after they have denied the paternity of their legal father.
The court has the authority to restrict inheritance rights when the paternity is established after the biological father’s death.
The new civil code contains a ban on corporal punishment,. Parents will be by law prohibited to use violence or to subject their children to humiliating treatment. Children are already protected under the convention on the rights of the child. The code also provides for the establishment of a reporting center for child abuse. Professionals, like doctors and psychologists, are excused of their oath of professional confidentiality to make it possible for them to report abuse.
Book IV of the civil code contains important changes to the inheritance law. It will no longer be possible to disinherit a child, and the rights of the longest living partner in a marriage are protected. The surviving partner will get the usufruct of the house and of money to live on. “If there is no will and all children involved are of the same father and mother, all assets will go to the surviving spouse. The children will get a claim on their share that becomes executable after the remaining spouse’s death,” De Boer said.
Legislation on corporations also changes. The code introduces the Anglo-American trust for clients in the offshore business. Another change is that shareholders who own at least ten percent of a company or an association get the right to ask an accountant to look into the company’s management performance.
Home-buyers will get some protection in the form of a 3-day cooling off period after they have closed a deal. This means that buyers get the right to cancel a purchase if they get second thoughts within that period. A similar provision (for seven days) applies to long distance contracts like Internet-transactions. Timeshare sales are bound by a 5-day cooling off period.
There are also changes ahead for tenants of private and commercial buildings. Private tenants of buildings with a market value of up to 200,000 guilders will be entitled to go to the rent committee to establish whether the rent they are paying is fair. Under the old system, these rents were linked to the historical construction costs.
The change does not affect current tenants, only new ones. For commercial properties the change from historical costs to market value kicks in five years after the civil code comes into effect.
Other changes concern insurances. Insurance companies will have to warn their clients fourteen days in advance that their insurance expires and that they have to come in to pay their fees. If the insurer fails to do so and the clients forgets to pay, he will still be covered in case he gets for instance in a car accident a couple of days after the due date.
In the labor laws the code guarantees equal treatment to workers. “Discrimination based on gender, membership of a union or the nature of the contract (temporary or permanent) is prohibited,” De Boer said.
Lastly, the right to maternity leave will go from twelve to fourteen weeks.

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