What Is Maintenance?

All parents have a legal obligation for the maintenance of their dependent children, in accordance with their means. The legal obligation is the same for all parents, whether they are married, in a civil partnership, cohabiting, or not.

Similarly, spouses and civil partners also have obligations to maintain each other, again in accordance with their means. Co-habiting partners don’t have the same rights, unless they can show they are financially dependent on their partner.

What Are Maintenance Payments in A Divorce?

In terms of separation and divorce, maintenance is a double-sided legal concept. It means the right to receive financial support and also the obligation to provide financial support. In practice, the parent who has custody of the children normally seeks child maintenance payments from the other parent.

A spouse or civil partner may also seek spousal maintenance from their partner to cover their own expenses. However, cohabitees are only entitled to it if they meet certain strict criteria. Find out more cohabiting partners rights here.

How Much Maintenance Should I Pay?

There is no scientific formula for calculating maintenance in Ireland. This means that every situation is different and will be considered on its own facts. You need to consider earnings, as well as expenses such as food, housing, medical, education, transport and clothing.

Separating partners may come to an agreement about payment levels. Your solicitor and/or a mediator can help you to ensure that your interests and the interests of your children are secured in both the short-term and in the longer-term.

But separation and divorce are emotionally demanding. So sometimes a spouse wants to minimise conflict or just end negotiations as quickly as possible. This can make you settle for less than is needed to cover longer-term needs for children, such as college education. Therefore, it’s crucial to secure expert advice and support.

Maintenance Orders and Agreements

If separating couples can reach agreement themselves, they can enshrine this in a Court Order. Firstly, they can draw up a binding agreement, setting out the agreed maintenance. This is just as binding as a contract. Then they can have the agreement converted into a court order, if they wish. They can do this by means of a simple consent application to court, which takes one brief court appearance. If there is a risk the agreement might be broken, then a court order is preferable, as it is easier to enforce.

Where couples can’t agree, then they need to apply to court for a Maintenance Order. The court’s role is to determine whether “proper maintenance” is being paid. So, the court does this by examining the financial circumstances of each party.

When the court is dealing with spousal or cohabitee maintenance, a key issue will be whether the partner seeking support is financially dependent upon the other. When considering dependency, several factors will arise. These include:

  • whether the person is in employment, or able to seek work
  • do they have any other dependencies/vulnerabilities such as medical or health issues?

Once Maintenance Orders and Agreements are sanctioned by a court, it can be very hard to overturn this decision. So, make sure you have the best legal advice before you enter this process to start with.

If you need advice or support on maintenance payments, please call Alan Finnerty on 01 637 6200. Or you can email him at alan.finnerty@orpenfranks.ie

From our Blog: How Much Maintenance will I have to Pay?

Many people understandably believe that there are standard levels of payment for maintenance in Ireland. But they are wrong….In reality, there is no fixed rule in the State, to determine an appropriate figure for maintenance payments. Read more…

Useful Links

Child Maintenance Information: Treoir – Click here.

Maintenance Orders and Agreements: Citizens Information – Click here.

Maintenance: The Courts Service – Click here.

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