In a separation or divorce, there is often a requirement for maintenance payments. Before separation a couple pool their resources and cover the costs of the household on a shared basis. However, when separation occurs the finances are no longer pooled and instead the same finances are used to finance two separate households. Clearly this reduces the monies available to the family. This coupled with the increased cost of living is the perfect storm. Here our Orlagh Sharkey, Partner, and Head of Family Law at Callan Tansey Solicitors addresses some frequently asked questions about Maintenance Payments.
What are Maintenance Payments?
Maintenance is a payment which is made in respect of dependent children on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. The District Court can Order maintenance up to a maximum of €150.00 per child. The Circuit or High Court have no limits in terms of the amount of maintenance that can be ordered. A once off lump sum payment of maintenance in relation to a particular item of expenditure can also be directed by the court.
How Does Rising Cost of Living Impact Maintenance Payments?
Many families are facing into a very difficult Winter with rising utility bills and generally increased household costs. Families are under immense financial pressures, in particular separated families and single parents.
Many separated parents have obtained an Order for Maintenance at the time of their Separation. This order could be many years old and out of date in terms of the current costs of the household. Maintenance may need to be reviewed.
Can Maintenance Payments Be Reviewed?
Maintenance can be reviewed at any stage by agreement between the Parties or on application to the court. This may be something families need to consider as the cost of living increases.
Are There Different Kinds of Maintenance Payments?
Yes, spousal maintenance is paid in relation to a Spouse. A typical example is a stay at home parent who has given up their employment to care for the dependent children and is dependent on the working spouse. On separation the stay at home parent should receive maintenance. Maintenance in respect of a dependent child is paid to the primary carer of the child to cover the cost of maintaining the child i.e school expenses, food, medical expenses etc.
What is a Maintenance Order?
A maintenance order is an order of the Court directing a father or mother to pay a sum of monies to the other parent of a dependent child in order to financially support that child of Spouse.
How Much Maintenance Must a Father Pay in Ireland?
I am regularly asked if Fathers have to pay maintenance. Maintenance is not specific to any Gender. A mother or Father can be ordered to pay maintenance irrelevant of Gender. The obligation to financially support a child is on all parents irrelevant of marital status. If a parent is not financially supporting a child a maintenance Order can be sought from the courts.
Can Maintenance Be Paid Directly To The Child?
Maintenance is generally not paid directly to a dependent child unless the child is much older (17+) and attending third level education. Usually maintenance is paid to the primary carer of the child to fund the expenses of that child.
How Are Maintenance Payments Calculated in Ireland?
Maintenance is based on the paying Spouses means i.e what can the person afford to pay based on their income. A comparison of income vs expenses takes place with a Judge deciding what is a fair payment taking into account the financial needs of the child. For example a child with a disability or special care needs may require a greater sum of maintenance than a child who has no additional needs.
What is The Average Maintenance Payment in Ireland?
The average payment in Ireland is from €40.00 to €75.00 per child. A person with a minimal income may be directed to pay a nominal sum whereas a person with greater means will be ordered to pay a much greater sum.
How do you Enforce a Maintenance Order in Ireland?
If a person fails to pay maintenance the monies can be deducted at source from their wages on application to the court. If there is continued failure to pay maintenance a person can be Committed to Prison if necessary.
What Age do Maintenance Payments Stop in Ireland?
Maintenance ceases when a child reaches 18 or 23 years of age if the child continues in full time education.
Orlagh Sharkey is a Partner at Callan Tansey Solicitors LLP, and head of the Family Law department. She has extensive experience supporting families to achieve the best outcomes in cases of Separation and Divorce. You can email Orlagh or contact her by phone on 071 916 2032.