Maintenance Payments for Spouses

A married person can seek Maintenance payments from the other spouse following the breakdown of their marriage. The obligation to maintain and support your spouse continues even if the person paying maintenance remarries. There is no clean break from the obligation to support the other spouse following a separation or divorce. Subject to the terms of an Agreement or Court Order a spouse only stops being responsible for the maintenance and support of the other spouse when the spouse receiving the maintenance dies or remarries.

Voluntary Maintenance

Informal maintenance arrangements can be made between the parties. This will work where both parties 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 parties 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 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 €500 per week (which would very rarely arise), and the amount stipulated will depend of the means of each party. If a sum greater than the District Family Court maximum is sought it will be necessary to apply to the Circuit Family Court. If the financial circumstances of either party changes an application can be made to court to have the Order varied by either increasing or decreasing the amount payable.  If the spouse falls into arrears with payments an application can be made to the court for an Enforcement Summons to issue against the offending party.

Income Tax Consequences

The spouse who is paying maintenance is entitled to a tax deduction for the sum paid in spousal maintenance. The recipient spouse must declare the amount received as part of his or her income for tax purposes.

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