Maintenance during the Covid-19 Crisis
The following is not intended as legal advice. It is intended to provide practical information as to how disputes can be resolved during the current arrangements for the hearing of cases in the Courts. If you require legal advice you should consult a solicitor
The Covid-19 situation has meant that many people have had a change in employment status, be it reduced income or being made unemployed. You should take action as soon as possible if your financial circumstances change impacting your ability to make maintenance payments. If you cannot pay the maintenance due, as per an agreement between you or a court ordered amount, you should contact the receiving party as soon as possible and outline the reasons why. Try to make contact before the payment is due, if at all possible. You should suggest an amount to the payment receiver and try to reach an agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, you should pay what you believe is the appropriate amount in the circumstances. Timely communication is key as well as both sides acknowledging the circumstances the other may find themselves in because of the current crisis. Keeping a note of the communication between is important if possible.
It may be the case that the party in receipt of maintenance is the party that find themselves in difficulty because of a change in circumstances. The broad same guidance applies. You should both seek to agree a change of payment in the circumstances.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has issued the following Notice for those in receipt of One Parent Family Payment:
Important notice for One Parent Families in relation to Child Maintenance Payments
There may be situations where a One Parent Family recipient is no longer receiving maintenance for their child because the other parent has lost their job due to Covid-19 pandemic.
In these cases, the Department advises that the One Parent Family recipient should contact their local Intreo Centre and provide it with a letter (from the recipient) stating that they are no longer receiving the maintenance payment from the other parent.
The Department will then revise their One Parent Family payment on that basis for a period of 12 weeks. After that period their means may be re-assessed at that stage following a review.
As the family courts are not hearing maintenance cases during the pandemic, this situation is being carefully monitored on an ongoing basis, to ensure that these lone parents do not have to face any further difficulties or hardship at this time.
It is worth noting that it is unlikely a solicitor would advise you to make an application to a Court for Breach of Maintenance Order if there is good reason that the person has varied the amount.
Applying to the Court and legal aid
As and from 18th May 2020, enforcement of maintenance orders will be considered urgent by the Court, if the breach of the order occurred during the Covid-19 outbreak.
If you live in Dublin you can issue proceedings in the District Court Family Law Office in Dolphin House. You need to email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will give you an appointment to come in and make the application. Once you have issued the proceedings you will be given a summons with details of the court date and venue. You can bring the summons to the Legal Aid Board office on the Third Floor, Dolphin House and apply for legal aid. If you have been served with a summons for enforcement of maintenance you can call our office on 01 675 5566 for information on how to apply for legal aid.
If you live outside Dublin you can apply for legal aid to your local law centre.