Maintenance may be required by a spouse for the support of himself/herself from the other spouse. Under Irish law, spouses are legally responsible for maintaining their spouse. Spousal maintenance arises mostly where there is a significant disparity between the spouses’ respective incomes. Maintenance is assessed based on means i.e. what a spouse can afford to pay bearing in mind his/her income and reasonable outgoing and the income and reasonable needs and outgoings of the other spouse.
Parties can agree maintenance issues between them. In the event of a dispute, the person seeking maintenance for themselves, can apply to the Court seeking a maintenance Order. In Judicial Separation and Divorce proceedings, either party can seek a maintenance Order.
Maintenance Orders can be periodic e.g. weekly or monthly sums and/or a lump sum or sums.
The courts generally do not seek to equalise income between spouses. Rather they asses what are the reasonable needs of each party.
Parents are legal responsible to maintain legally dependent children, whether the child is born to married parents or unmarried parents.
Children are considered legal dependents if they are under the age of 18 years or, having attained the age of 18 years is in a full time third level course of education, up to the maximum age of 23 years. If a child has a permanent disability they may be considered a dependent child for their lifetime.
Whether seeking spousal maintenance or child maintenance, an application can be made for a maintenance order alone or can be brought as part of Judicial Separation or Divorce proceedings.
Parties cannot contract out of the entitlement to seek spousal or child maintenance from a spouse/parent of a child, even after legal separation or divorce. Neither can spouses/parents contract out of their legal responsibility to pay maintenance for their spouse or former spouse after Divorce or for a child. A former spouse who has remarried ay not apply for spousal maintenance against their former spouse. Instead they can apply for spousal maintenance from the current spouse.
Application can be made to the District Court, Circuit Court or High Court for maintenance Orders. There are limitations on the amount the District Court can direct: €500 per week for a spouse and €150 per week per child for child maintenance. The Circuit Court and High Court have unlimited jurisdiction.