Do I need to pay child maintenance?
Sorting out the finances between single parents
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Under Irish law, both parents are legally required to provide financially for their children, regardless of their relationship with one another. If you and your child’s other parent are separated and you have custody of your child, you are entitled to receive child maintenance.
What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance is paid from one parent to the other parent when they are no longer in a relationship or living together. It is paid to the parent who has custody of the child by the other parent. The parent with custody of the child is the parent who lives with the child and looks after them on a daily basis.
Do I need to pay child maintenance?
In Ireland, both parents are responsible for supporting their children, whether they are married, separated, living together, or have never lived together. Married couples or parents in a relationship normally can informally sort out their finances between themselves, but for parents who are not together, maintenance is often required to make sure both parents are supporting the child. If the parents are not in a relationship, one parent is legally obliged to pay maintenance.
How does child maintenance work?
If you have a good relationship with the other parent of your child, you can sort it out informally between yourselves. You can discuss the expenses related to your child, and decide upon a reasonable amount to pay weekly or monthly to cover the costs. There is no upper or lower limit of how much this is. Once you have decided on this amount, you can get it enshrined in a court order. That means the agreement will be legally-binding, and the other parent will be obliged to pay it.
If you don’t get on well with the other parent, this process can be more difficult. If they refuse to pay it, or if you can’t settle on a how much they should pay, you’ll need to apply for a maintenance order from the District Court to ensure they do pay.
What is a maintenance order?
A maintenance order is a legally-binding court order which states that one parent of the child has to pay maintenance to the other. To apply for one, you need to go to the local District Court and get the Court Clerk to issue a maintenance summons against the parent who refuses to pay maintenance. This can be confusing at first, so it might be a good idea to call your nearest Free Legal Advice Centre to talk you through the process.
If you bring the other parent to court to get a maintenance order, there can be legal fees related to this. However, the judge may deem the other parent to be liable to pay these. It’s worth getting in touch with Legal Aid, who may be able to provide you with assistance in this area.
The maximum amount of maintenance that can be granted by a maintenance order from the District Court is €150 per week, per child. If you are seeking a larger amount, you have to go to the Circuit Court or the High Court.
For more information on how to apply, and all of the forms you need, visit the Courts Services website.
Does maintenance grant access?
Maintenance does not necessarily grant access. If you are paying maintenance to your child, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically get access to them. Gaining access to your child is a separate legal process, and does not affect maintenance.
Need more information?
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.