Income and Maintenance
1. Variation of Maintenance in Light of Loss of Income
The Covid-19 situation has resulted in many people suffering from a reduced income or loss of employment. If you cannot pay maintenance due under a court order, there is guidance available from the Legal Aid Board and from FLAC.
The Legal Aid Board’s guidance regarding maintenance during the Covid-19 crisis is available here. It suggests that you try to make contact before the payment is due and discuss an amount to the payment receiver which you feel would be more appropriate in the current circumstances. If an agreement cannot be reached you should pay what you believe is the appropriate amount in the circumstances.
Similarly, FLAC have information regarding the payment of maintenance on their Covid-19 Family Law information sheet. It is suggested that you contact the maintenance recipient to explain your situation, to discuss what payments might be made during this period. FLAC also suggest you keep a note of all communications made to the payment receiver.
Alternatively, if you are the party in receipt of maintenance and are finding yourself in financial difficulty due to Covid-19, it is advised to speak to the party providing maintenance and suggest an amended amount you feel is more suitable during the current circumstances. Timely communication is key as well as both sides acknowledging the circumstances the other may find themselves in because of the current crisis. For one parent families, One Family provide a very helpful ‘askonefamily helpline’ that specialises in issues affecting one-parent families where the sudden loss of child maintenance is common – low call helpline 1890 662212.
If a Court Order exists, this order remains in place and must still be complied with, notwithstanding any change in circumstances. Any duration of reduced maintenance will accrue in arrears. Therefore, it is suggested to receive a Consent Order from your former spouse on an agreed temporary change of maintenance receivable.
Applications to vary maintenance are available on the courts website.
The President of the District Court has stated that the best outcome for children is for parents to contact each other to set out their concerns and suggest ideas for practical solutions that can be put in place.
Barnardos are operating a national telephone email support service for parents in response to the challenges they may be facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. Enforcement for Non-Payment
The District Court will continue to hear matters which are considered urgent. See the most recent statement from the President of the District Court, following the imposition of Level 5 restrictions on As from the 18th of May, applications and hearings for breach of maintenance are regarded as urgent provided that they had occurred during the emergency outbreak. However, if your case had occurred exterior to the emergency outbreak, the President of the District Court had stated that a case which does not come into the defined urgent matter can be treated as urgent if a good case can be made.
Maintenance summons may be submitted by email to be issued and returned during this time. Application forms for maintenance are available on courts.ie.
3. Social Welfare Support
If you have been made redundant or temporarily laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis, you can apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. New payment rates were established on 16 October 2020. You should also apply for Jobseekers Benefit, as it takes into account any relevant dependents you may have, which may entitle you to a higher rate of payment. The Department will then determine which one you will qualify for.
The National Woman’s Council of Ireland has provided information for women who are struggling financially during the Covid-19 crisis. Information is provided on several issues such as illness benefit, lone parents and women who are carers.
If your only income is a social welfare payment, you will continue to receive this during the Covid-19 crisis. If you are medically required to self-isolate or you are diagnosed with Covid-19, you will also continue to receive your social welfare payments and will not be required to apply for Illness benefit.
If you are unable to collect your payment from the post office due to illness or self-isolation there are a number of alternative options available to you during this time, detailed here.
The FLAC Information Sheet on Social Welfare provides information for people whose income is a mixture of both earnings from employment and a social welfare payment and answers a number of social welfare queries.
4. Variations to Support Childcare Costs
Childcare facilities are regarded as an essential service and remain open during the current restrictions. The Government website has provided further information for childcare providers. If any employer is unable to pay an employee, the employer can apply for Revenue’s Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). This was formerly known as Covid-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) which was replaced with EWSS from 1 September 2020. Qualifying childcare businesses do not need to meet the 30% reduction turnover to avail of this support. If your childcare facility is in receipt of this support, the childcare provider should charge their pre Covid 19 fee to parents. Childminders may continue to operate provided they follow HSE advice to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Further information is available on www.gov.ie.