Reform to child maintenance system
New changes to Child Maintenance payments by Aidan Reynolds and Keith Walsh
Practical and welcome changes to child maintenance in Ireland published today.
The changes are aimed at improving enforcement and collection of child maintenance. Currently the system puts all the onus on the person seeking maintenance, the reforms will change this:
“the vast majority of parents take their financial and other responsibilities towards their children very seriously. Many parents make private child maintenance arrangements, this is the best option and the one to be promoted and encouraged, and one that cannot be emphasised too strongly. However, there will always be circumstances in which private arrangements are not possible or in which private arrangements breakdown. In these circumstances the government and the courts are tasked with safeguarding the financial welfare of children. This review looks at options to improve the enforcement of child maintenance orders to ensure that the system operates as effectively as possible, and in the best interests of the children involved.”
“Non-compliance with maintenance orders is mainly a problem in District Court cases where the amounts of maintenance sought and ordered are low, and where the financial resources of the paying parent are also low.”
Child maintenance can be:
1. collected by Revenue similar to LPT or
2. deducted at source by An Post [welfare payments]
Attachment Orders – which is where maintenance is deducted at source by employer. These are currently available but more emphasis will be put on them.
3. new powers for the courts to
a. freeze non-paying parents’ assets where parent attempts to get dispose of them or
b. order sheriffs to enforce maintenance orders
c. Court can regard failure to pay as contempt of Court
d. Suspended sentences for parents who fail to pay child maintenance and
4. Mediation information sessions will be “mandatory” for parents before an application can be made to the courts to encourage them to reach their own maintenance agreement, which would then be ruled on in court
Concern here as the Istanbul Convention prohibits mandatory mediation where domestic violence, although the proposal is only for mandatory mediation sessions, not clear why victims of domestic violence should attend same if there is no prospect of mediation and this needs to be re-examined.
Maintenance applications in District Court:
5,862- 2022, 5451- 2021 5,055 -2020; 8383 in 2019; 8935 in 2018; 9,234 in 2017; 8,788 in 2016, 10,459 in 2014 applications for maintenance in the District Court where maintenance is capped at €150 per child per week