It is a legal responsibility of Irish parents, married or not, to provide child maintenance for their dependent child or children. This maintenance can be given at a frequency that is in accordance to the parent or parents’ preference. A parent may choose to provide maintenance weekly, monthly or even in a single lump sum payment. Providing maintenance for children, however, does not automatically give a parent rights to guardianship or custody.
When married or civil partners are separated, maintenance amounts and frequency of provision can be decided in three ways—either by an informal agreement, by a rule of court or an application for a maintenance order.
If both parties can be fair and reasonable enough to come up with an agreement between themselves, they only need to take some time to think and write out the actual amount of maintenance that needs to be provided. This type of voluntary agreement, however, does not rule out the possibility of having to apply for an official court maintenance order in the future.
For separated parents, especially those who severed their marital or civil unions due to personal differences, it is often tough to come upon an agreement that will equally satisfy both concerned parties. In this case, it will be better to seek out professional intermediary help such as a Solicitor. Each parent can also choose to hire individual Solicitors who can then use their legal expertise to act as negotiators and come up with a common ground maintenance agreement that would conform to each parent’s individual preference.
This agreement should then be signed by both parents and could subsequently be turned into a rule of court, which is just as good as a maintenance order. Both sides cannot be represented by a single solicitor to avoid conflicts of interest.
The last, most formal option to come up with a proper maintenance agreement is by applying for a court maintenance order. This matter can be brought to the District or Circuit Court by a parent against the other parent who may be refusing to provide child maintenance. A maintenance order can also be applied to get another parent’s attention to a child’s additional maintenance needs.
Child maintenance in Ireland is awarded to either an unmarried parent, or one who was previously married and is now separated. Maintenance support can be provided for children under age 18. If the child is going through full-time education, then maintenance support for him or her is payable and enforceable until he or she ceases full-time education or reaches the age of 23, whichever comes first. If a child that is over 18 but is under 23 has no means of continuing with full-time education, a parent can apply for maintenance to support the child into acquiring further education.
On the other hand, a child who is mentally or physically disabled with very little possibility of being able to support himself/herself in the future, seeking for maintenance to support him/her is not limited by age.
In order for the judge to issue an appropriate maintenance order, the parents will need to disclose any useful information regarding their finances. This, along with other relevant family circumstances, will then be considered by the judge in his decision on whether or not to issue a maintenance order for the child.