Maintenance Payments for Dependent Children

Both parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. In the case of unmarried parents or parents who have separated, one parent usually has custody of the dependent children and looks after their day to day needs. The other parent usually pays money which is called maintenance to the custodian parent to assist with the costs involved of taking care of the children. Paying maintenance does not in itself give a parent access or guardianship rights.

Voluntary Maintenance

Informal maintenance arrangements can be made between the parents. This will work where both parents are fair and reasonable. If however agreement cannot be reached between the parties, each party can engage their own solicitor to negotiate on their behalf to reach an agreement which both parents sign. While such an agreement is legally binding an application can also be made to court to have the agreement made an Order of Court for ease of enforcement by the parties.

Maintenance Orders Made By the Court

If the parties are unable to agree on the amount of Maintenance to be paid towards the costs involved for the care of the dependent children then an application can be made to either the District Family Court or the Circuit Family Court requesting that an Order be made by the Court directing the amount of Maintenance to be paid. Each party must present evidence of their earnings and details of their expenditure. On hearing the evidence a Judge will make an Order determining the amount to be paid. The maximum amount a District Court Judge can order is €150 per week, per child but this will depend on the means of each parent. If a sum greater that this is sought it will be necessary to apply to the Circuit Family Court. Contributions towards Christmas, the child’s birthday and back to school expenses may also be sought.

How long is Maintenance Payable For?

Maintenance may be awarded for a child until the child reaches the age of 18, or if the child remains in full time education until the child reaches the age of 23. If the child has a mental or physical disability such that it will not be possible for the child to maintain him or herself then in such circumstances there is no age limit for seeking maintenance for the support of the dependent child.

When a Maintenance Order has been made by the Court either party can apply at a later date to have the amount varied. This means the amount could be increased or decreased. If a party falls into arrears with payments when a Maintenance Order is in place an application can be made to the court for an Enforcement Summons to issue against the offending party.

How to Apply for Maintenance

A solicitor will assist you in issuing a summons seeking Maintenance. Legal advice and representation is very beneficial in these circumstances. Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for legal aid and you should enquire at your nearest law centre to ascertain if you are eligible for legal aid. If your application is approved a solicitor employed by the Legal Aid Board (“the Board”) working in these law centres may represent you or in certain emergency cases or where an applicant is on the waiting list for some time they will be notified by the Board that they are entitled to the services of a solicitor in private practice. When this situation arises the applicant will be provided with a list of solicitors on the panel and may choose one of the solicitors to act on their behalf. Legal aid is not totally without charge in family law matters and a contribution (normally relatively nominal in the context of the value of the services provided) toward the cost of the service must be paid. The applicant will be advised by the law centre of the amount of the contribution required at the outset. The minimum contribution for legal aid is currently set at €50.

The solicitors in this office are registered as members of the legal aid panel in respect of Family Law matters.

This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information contained therein. Any and all information is subject to change. For further information on the subject, please contact the author, Joyce A. Good Hammond, at joyce@hgs.ie