Maintenance is financial support paid by a person to his/her dependent spouse/civil partner and/or dependent children. Maintenance can be paid periodically (weekly or monthly) and/or in a lump sum.
Upon the breakdown of a relationship, there is no clean break from the obligation to financially support a former spouse/civil partner and dependent children. In the case of marital breakdown, maintenance can be sought as part of a separation or divorce application. A qualified cohabitant can also seek a maintenance order on the breakdown of the relationship if he/she can prove financial dependency arising from the nature of the cohabiting relationship.
Maintenance is always open to review and you can apply to the court any time after the decree of judicial separation or divorce is granted for a maintenance order or to have an existing maintenance order varied (increased or decreased). This also applies following the dissolution of a civil partnership. However, this ongoing right to apply to the court for maintenance does not apply where the applicant has re-married and the application for maintenance concerns themselves (and not any dependent children).
Child maintenance is paid by a parent to support the needs of his/her dependent child.
All parents and legal guardians, whether married or not, have a responsibility to financially provide for their dependent children.
A dependent child is defined as under the age of 18, or up to the age of 23 if in full time education. If a child has a disability, the duty to financially provide for him/her may remain indefinitely.
For further information and resources on child maintenance, click here.
You may informally arrange financial support without the court’s involvement. These agreements can be written up and made a Rule of Court which is a legally binding agreement. If the agreement is not made a Rule of Court, it is NOT legally binding. Mediation may be useful in helping the parties reach an agreement.
An informal agreement does not prevent you from applying for a maintenance order in the future.
If an agreement cannot be reached informally, you can apply to the court for a maintenance order. These applications are usually made in the District Court. Maintenance can also be sought as part of an application for guardianship or access. An application can be made on its own or as part of a consent order for separation or divorce.
If applying for maintenance through the District Court, the applicant (person seeking the maintenance order) attends the court and completes a maintenance summons. Once this document has been completed, it must be signed and stamped by the relevant court office and is then officially issued. The summons must be served on the respondent, either in person within 14 days, or by registered post within 21 days, so the courts can be satisfied that he/she is aware of the summons.
Application forms for maintenance are available on the Courts Service website.
The original summons, statutory declaration and the postage proof of summons must be lodged with the District Court clerk at least two days before the date of the court hearing.
The applicant and the respondent have to attend the court on the day of the hearing to make the application before a judge.
Both parties can represent themselves, employ a solicitor or apply for Legal Aid. You can check whether you are likely to qualify for legal aid here. Applications for civil legal aid can be made online or through your local law centre.
There is no legal formula for calculating maintenance; it will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
Both the applicant and the respondent are required to submit a detailed list of all income and expenditure to the court called a ‘Statement of Means’. Maintenance is assessed by the person’s ability to pay as well as the needs of the person seeking it. The court will decide on each individual case, taking into account the whole financial situation, including income, earning potential, property, and financial responsibilities (such as dependent children).
Both parties can re-apply to vary (increase/decrease) or discharge (end) the order if circumstances change.
An applicant can also seek a contribution from a respondent towards expenses related to a birth or death of a dependent child. A one-off payment may also be sought from the courts for a special occasion.
Further information and assistance is available at every local district court office or through Legal Aid. In addition, FLAC offers free and confidential legal advice clinics. Contact details are available below.
Breach of a Maintenance Order
If maintenance is not paid as ordered by the court, you can apply to the court for an Enforcement Order. You may also be able to apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order which directs the respondent’s employer to deduct the maintenance at source. It is possible to apply for this attachment order upon application for a maintenance order if there is a risk that the other party may fail to make the maintenance payments.
You may be held in contempt of court for breach of a maintenance order.
The Citizens Information website provides useful information on maintenance, including enforcing and varying maintenance orders, maintenance rates, and how to apply.
|Legal Aid Board||
(066) 947 1000
1890 615 200
Legal Aid Board, Quay Street, Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry
33 full time offices nationwide, other part-time offices.
|Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)||
1890 350 250 / +353 1 874 5690
|www.flac.ie||Free Legal Advice Centre, 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1|
|The Courts Service||01 1 888 6000||www.courts.ie||15 – 24 Phoenix Street North, Smithfield, Dublin 7|
|Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery||+353 (0)1 479 firstname.lastname@example.org||Bishop's Square, Redmond's Hill, Dublin 2|
|Citizens Information||0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)||www.citizensinformation.ie||More than 260 drop-in locations nationwide. Find your local centre here.|
|Family Mediation Service||+353 (0)1 email@example.com||www.legalaidboard.ie||Family Mediation Service, 1st Floor, St. Stephen’s Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2|
Tel:+353 (0)1 6700120
|firstname.lastname@example.org||www.treoir.ie||Treoir, 28 North Great Georges Street, Dublin 1|