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Maintenance of Spouses and Children

Maintenance of Spouses and Children

What is Maintenance?

  • Spouses and civil partners are required to financially support each other.   Parents are required to financially support their dependent children (up to 18 years old, or up to 23 years old if in full time education)
  • Maintenance is financial support paid by a person for the benefit of their spouse/civil partner and/or dependent children.
  • Maintenance can be in the form of regular payments and/or in the form of a lump sum. Regular payments (called a periodic payments order if ordered by the Court) are far more common. A lump sum can sometimes be awarded as part of a divorce/separation.
  • There is no legal requirement that unmarried persons in a relationship, or previously in one, support each other, even if they live or have lived together.  Normally such persons can only apply for maintenance under the co-habitant relief legislation.
  • Maintenance arrangements can be made in a number of ways:
    • By informal arrangement between the parties
    • By a legal agreement between the parties e.g. a separation agreement
    • By a Court as part of a decree of judicial separation or divorce.
    • By a Court as a maintenance order.  The District Court can award maintenance of up to €500 per week for a spouse and €150 a week for a child.  The Circuit Court can award in excess of the amount however standalone maintenance suits in the Circuit Court are relatively uncommon. Note that when hearing an appeal from the District Court, the Circuit Court has the same jurisdiction as the District court.
  • Unlike in some other jurisdictions, in Ireland there is no legal formula for calculating maintenance; it is up to the parties to agree the payment between themselves (if by agreement) or for the Court to decide what should be awarded.  The Court will consider the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of both parties.  It will also consider whether either party has other financial responsibilities such as a spouse or other dependent children.
  • A court can vary a maintenance order on the application or either party.

What can I do if the maintenance due to me is not being paid?

Courts have power to enforce maintenance orders if they are not being complied with, by making an attachment of earnings order (which directs a persons employer to deduct maintenance at source and pay it over to the person who should receive it) or according to the law of contempt of court ( if the maintenance order was made by the District Court).

How can maintenance be changed or ended?

A person paying or receiving maintenance may reapply to the court that made the maintenance order for:

  • To vary the maintenance order, i.e. a change in the amount of maintenance, for example, a person might look for a greater amount.
  • Discharge the maintenance order which means ending the obligation to pay.  Generally, there applications are made where there has been a change in the paying party's circumstances since the order was first made.
  • If the discharge is being applied for because the person paying the maintenance is unable to pay, they will need to prove this to the court.

The court may also decide to vary the maintenance when is it dealing with an enforcement application and it is clear that circumstances have changed since the making of the maintenance order.

Further Information :

Head Office:

Legal Aid Board, Quay Street, Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, V23 RD36

Locall No: 0818 615 200

Tel (066) 947 1000

Email : info@legalaidboard.ie


10:00am - 12:30pm & 2.00pm - 4.00pm

The above is provided for information purposes only.  It does not purport to be a statement of the law or legal advice