As the opening of schools approaches, LAB introduces fast track ADR for child maintenance

With a little over two weeks to the reopening of schools for the new academic year, the Legal Aid is bracing for an upsurge in maintenance and custody matters for children.

 In 2017, the Board struggled to cope with complaints from desperate mothers who were either battling with fathers over custody issues or regarding the release of funds in time for the reopening of schools.

This notwithstanding, with the launch of the free quality education, the Board is hopeful there will be a reduction in matters relating to maintenance for children. But since many of the disputes relating to child maintenance or custody are driven by ego, the Board is leaving nothing to chance.

‘This is why we are appealing to parents to put aside their ego and focus on the best interest of their children,’ the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles said.  ‘I call on mothers and fathers to communicate regularly about the welfare of their children. Also, all such communicationshould be civil, polite and geared towards an amicable settlement,’ she added.

In preparation for the upsurge, the Board is setting up fast track ADR sessions to ensure child maintenance and custody issues are given priority and therefore resolved in time for the reopening of schools.Also, this will enable the Board to deal quickly with difficult and irresponsible fathers. In such cases, the Board will go to court and apply for court orders so it could instruct banks to deduct a reasonable chunk from their account. ‘If it means seeking the assistance of the Government, we will do just that,’ Ms. Carlton-Hanciles stressed.

‘We have had many irresponsible fathers giving us lectures on the law, that they will not take care of their children because they are above eighteen,’ Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said.  ‘The Board will not take lightly any such excuse. Fathers must take care of their children until they are able to stand on their own after completing tertiary or vocational education. Experience has taught that most of those who use this excuse never took care of their children when they were below eighteen,’ she added.

The Board is also under pressure to handle complaints against fathers working with international organizations, the United Nations and those living abroad. In the case of the UN and international organizations, the Board will establish contact with the leadership of these organizations to ensure they subject themselves to the Board’s ADR and take care of their children.

For instance, the Board is currently dealing with a complaint against a United Nations Staff in South Sudan who has abandoned his child for over a year now. ‘Those who cannot take care of their children are not fit to work for the United Nations,’ Ms. Carlton-Hanciles stressed. ‘In addition, we will begin to name and shame those who are exploiting the fact that they areliving outside the jurisdiction of Sierra Leone to abdicate their responsibilities to their children,’ she added.

on 31 August 2018