Family Law – Will Covid-19 affect your maintenance rights?

Mar 24, 2020

I am writing this blog in response to a number of queries received by the office recently. I hope the below Q & A will help answer your questions. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact Martina Murphy on 061-303311 or email [email protected].

Q. My children’s father has reduced the amount of maintenance he has paying me. He has been laid off temporarily and says he has bills to pay. What can I do – my children and I depend on that weekly sum?

Eventhough we are in unusual times, I would suggest that the last thing that should be cut is the maintenance payment. Courts generally treat maintenance as a priority which must be paid above all other financial commitments. The government has introduced financial measures to assist people who have been laid off and every effort should be made by your ex to pay the maintenance. It may be acceptable for the maintenance to be reduced marginally but it cannot be unilaterally stopped. Just because there is a covid crisis does not mean that children don’t need to be provided for.

Unfortunately the courts are not sitting at the moment save in exceptional circumstances and therefore it is not possible currently to bring your case to the attention of the courts. What we can do however is write to your children’s father advising him of his obligations and lodge an application with the court in regard to maintenance which will be heard as soon as the courts resume.

If the maintenance is stopped or reduced unnecessarily will the courts backdate it?

Yes they will.

Does it matter if I have an Order for maintenance or just an agreement for maintenance?

Yes and no. It is preferable if there is a court order in place as the maintenance amount has been adjudicated by the Judge to be fair. If however you and your ex never went to court and had agreed a figure between you and he/she has paying this consistently and you were relying on it then the Judge would deem this to be setting a precedent. This means the Judge would likely suggest that this figure continues to be paid.

What happens if the maintenance stops entirely? What can I do – I do not work so do not qualify for the €350 payment.

Please contact your local community welfare officer who maybe able to give you an emergency lump sum or other assistance.

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