There is a legal responsibility on spouses to maintain each other and also any dependent children of the marriage in accordance with their means. When a couple separate it is very often the case that the issue of maintenance arises. If both parties are working (or where one party is not working but could be working) it may be that no maintenance obligation arises as between the parents (although this is not always the case and very much depends on the individual circumstances of the parties).
Maintenance for children is payable for the duration of their dependency – aged 18 or 23 if they are still in full time education at that age. If a child has a mental or physical disability it can be payable beyond this age. Maintenance is payable generally to the parent who is the primary carer for the children and so if both parents are equally parenting the children, for example on a week on/week off basis, it may be that no child maintenance obligation arises. Maintenance can be agreed between the parties or, if it cannot be agreed, a Court can award maintenance in respect of a spouse or a child or both.Maintenance can be awarded by the District Court, the Circuit Court or the High Court. In the District Court a maximum of €500 can be awarded to a spouse and €150 for each child. The Circuit and High Courts can award any amount of maintenance.
Interim maintenance orders can be sought where one party is suddenly left in a situation where they have insufficient access to funds. In such circumstances a Court can award maintenance on an interim basis pending a full hearing of a case. Maintenance proceedings can be brought on their own or in the context of separation proceedings.
Where a couple are not married one party is generally not entitled to seek maintenance for themselves, only for a dependent child. However, where one party qualifies as a cohabitant under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 it may be possible to seek maintenance. For more information see the section of this site relating to cohabitants.