The issue of Maintenance in my experience always seems to cause conflict between parents. Unfortunately the dispute between the parents can result in one party not happy paying a certain amount for Maintenance and the other party not happy receiving what is offered. Understandably the issue of money can be a sore point when couples separate. This is especially the case where one party earns a considerable amount of money and seems unwilling to pay enough to support his/her children.
All parents have a duty to maintain their children and rearing a child is expensive. If at all possible parents should try to discuss how each parent can share in providing financially for the child. Sometimes a voluntarily arrangement/ agreement can work but more often than not where there is a dispute a Court ruling will be required. It is important to note that paying maintenance in itself does not give a parent access or guardianship rights. However in my experience in dealing with Guardianship and Access a Court will seek information on the issue of Maintenance.
Voluntary agreements can work very well where both parents are reasonable eventhough it can be difficult to assess how much Maintenance should be paid. If a payment cannot be agreed in this way the parties may need to employ Solicitors and make a Court application.
In taking a Maintenance application through the Courts the following points should be noted:
- Maintenance cases are always held in private
- The maximum District Court can order is €150 per week per child.
- In the Circuit and High Court there is no limit
- Both parties will be asked to provide details of all cost and expenses, vouched
- Once ordered Maintenance can be paid through the District Court or into a nominated bank Account
- A parent may also seek contributions towards annual health or educational costs also
- Once ordered by the Court there can be serious consequences for non payment
- A Court can also be asked to attach a Maintenance order to the earnings of a parent
Over the years I have acted for parents who don’t want to pay maintenance as they feel the money is not being spent on the kids expenses. It is hard for parents to separate the dispute and the needs of the children financially but it is very important to keep the interests of the child at heart if possible.
In all cases I would advise clients to try and park the conflict for once and agree a reasonable figure for maintenance thus avoiding Court proceedings and all the stress and worry that comes with that.