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Relevant court forms
How is maintenance paid?
Can maintenance amounts be changed?
Maintenance from outside the State

What is maintenance?

Maintenance is financial support (money) paid by a person for the benefit of a dependent spouse/civil partner and/or dependent children. Spouses/civil partners are required to maintain each other according to their means and needs. Parents, whether married or not, are responsible for the maintenance of their dependant children.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement about maintenance an application can be made to the court for a maintenance order.

Maintenance for spouses/civil partners

A spouse/civil partner applying to the court for maintenance must establish that the other spouse/civil partner has failed to provide such maintenance as is proper in the circumstances. The court decides what maintenance is proper in the circumstances of each individual case.

Maintenance for cohabitating couples

There is generally no responsibility on either party in a cohabitating relationship to pay maintenance where a relationship comes to an end. However, a ‘qualified cohabitant’ claiming to be financially dependent on an ex-partner may apply to the court for a ‘Compensatory Maintenance Order’.

Maintenance of children

Both parents have a responsibility to support their children financially. This applies to all parents, whether married, separated, living together or if they have never lived together. The parent with custody of the children has to take care of them and look after their day-to-day needs. The parent who does not have custody usually has to pay money to the parent with custody. This is to help cover the costs of taking care of the children.

A cohabitant of a person who is a parent, or a cohabitant of a person who has the day-to-day care (loco parentis) of a child may have to financially maintain the child, if that cohabitant is a guardian and is not the parent.

Who can apply for maintenance?

Parents, whether married or not, can apply for maintenance from the other parent for their children. A parent, legal guardian, health board or any person holding legal status in relation to a dependent child can apply for maintenance for the child.

A spouse/civil partner can apply for maintenance for themselves even if they are living with the other spouse/civil partner.

Age limits

A dependant child is a child under eighteen years of age, or a child under 23 who is in full time education, or a child of any age who is dependant on its parents due to disability.

Maintenance limits 

Outside of the court

There is no limit on the amount of maintenance payable which is agreed by informal arrangements made outside of the court.

From the court 

The maximum that the District Court can order for maintenance of a child is €150 per week from either parent.

The maximum that the District Court can order a spouse/civil partner to pay for the other spouse is €500 per week.

A parent can seek a contribution from the other parent towards expenses related to the birth of a child, or funeral expenses if a dependent child dies. The maximum that can be awarded in the District Court in each of these circumstances is €2,000.  A parent can also seek special one-off lump sum payments (for example, at Christmas time or at the start of the school year) from the District Court up to a maximum of €6,350.

If greater amounts are sought then it is necessary to apply to the Circuit Court or the High Court.

How to apply for a maintenance order

Most applications for maintenance are made in the District Court. You can engage asolicitor to make an application on your behalf or you can make the application yourself. You may be entitled to legal aid.

If you choose not to engage a solicitor you will need to contact the District Court office in the area where you live to issue a maintenance summons. Court staff cannot tell you how to complete the summons.

The summons must be served on the respondent at least fourteen days or, where service is by registered prepaid post, at least twenty-one days, before the date of the court hearing. After service, the original summons, together with a statutory declaration as to service, with proof of postage attached, must be lodged with the District Court clerk at least two days before the date of the court hearing. You must also attend in court on the day to make your application.

Sometimes applications for maintenance form part of other proceedings for example, judicial separation / divorce / dissolution in the Circuit Court or the High Court. In such cases the appropriate court to deal with an application for maintenance is the court dealing with (or that dealt with) the judicial separation/divorce/dissolution proceedings. This includes applications to discharge or vary the maintenance order. Maintenance applications can also be brought under the Guardianship of Infants Acts, 1964 - 1997 as part of custody, access, maintenance or other applications.

Court forms

District Court: S.I.No. 42 of 1998: District Court (Family Law) Rules 1998; S.I. No. 17 of 2016: District Court (Children and Family Relationships Act 2015) Rules 2016.

  • Forms 54.1: Maintenance;Summons - section 5(1) (a)
    Use this summons if you are married to the respondent
  • Form 54A.1:Summons - section 45(1) and section 175
    Use summons if you are a civil partner or a qualified cohabitant
  • Form 54.2: Maintenance Summons - section 5(1) (b) as amended
    Use this summons where one spouse is dead, has deserted or is living separately and apart from the other spouse and neither spouse is maintaining the child(ren)
  • Form 54.3: Maintenance Summons - section 5A(1)
    Use this summons if you are not married to the respondent
  • Form 54.4: Maintenance Summons - section 5A(2)
    Use this summons if you are not married to the respondent but a person holding legal status in relation to a dependent child(ren)
  • Form 54.11: Summons to discharge or vary maintenance order
    Use this summons if you are applying to discharge or vary a maintenance order that is in force
  • Form 54.30: Maintenance Summons – section 5B(2)
    Use this summons if you are seeking maintenance against a cohabitant who is not a parent but is a guardian of the dependent child(ren)
  • Form 54.32: Maintenance Summons – section 5C(2
  • No:10.1 Statutory declaration as to service by registered prepaid post pursuant to section 7 of the Courts Act, 1964 / section 22 of the Courts Act, 1991  
  • No:10.2 Statutory declaration as to service by prepaid registered post 
  • No:10.3 Statutory declaration as to personals service

About maintenance orders

When the court makes a maintenance order it will usually specify:

  • the full amount of the maintenance to be paid and how much is to be paid for the spouse/civil partner and how much for each child
  • the frequency of payments - weekly, fortnightly or monthly
  • the date on which the first payment is to be made
  • to whom payments are to be made

The person directed to pay maintenance (the maintenance debtor) makes the payment to the District Court. The District Court passes the payment on to the person entitled to the money (the maintenance creditor).

How is maintenance paid to the court office?

Maintenance can be paid in the following ways: By

  • Standing order
  • Bank draft made payable to the maintenance creditor
  • Cheque made payable to the maintenance creditor
  • Money order
  • Cash- this must not be sent by post
  • The maintenance creditor can request that payment be made directly to him/her.

What are the benefits of paying the maintenance directly to the maintenance creditor?

There is no delay in receiving the payment and payments can be made outside of office hours.

What are the benefits of being paid through the District Court office?

The District Court office keeps a record of all maintenance payments received. If payments fall into arrears the maintenance creditor can prepare a summons to be issued (dated and signed) by the DistrictCourt clerk for the recovery of the arrears. The summons must be served by the maintenance creditor.

At the hearing of the summons, the District Court clerk can give sworn evidence to the court of the amount of arrears due.

If the District Court office does not receive payment can it issue the payment due anyway?

No. The District Court office can only issue the payment if it has received it. If the maintenance debtor has not made payments the maintenance creditor can attend at the District Court office to issue proceedings to recover arrears.

How does the maintenance creditor get paid from the District Court office?

The maintenance creditor can receive payment in the following ways:

  • By way of electronic transfer of funds to the maintenance creditor's bank account
  • By cheque made payable to the maintenance creditor
  • By cheque to the maintenance creditor's bank or other account (for example building society, post office).

How soon after the District Court office receives payment will the payment issue?

It depends on the type of payment received. Cash, standing order, bank draft and money orders are processed immediately. If the payment is made by cheque the payment issues ten days later provided the bank clears the cheque.

If the maintenance debtor is going on holidays and wishes to pay a number of weeks in advance will court offices accept advance payments?

Yes. Court offices will accept advance payments where requested by the maintenance debtor. Where advance payments are received by court offices, the complete advance payment is sent to the maintenance creditor.

Can maintenance orders made in the Circuit Court and the High Court be paid through the District Court?

Yes. If the District Court clerk receives a maintenance order from the Circuit Court or the High Court they treat it as if it was made in the District Court and will notify the parties accordingly.

If my maintenance is not paid, how can I recover it?

Proceedings for the recover of maintenance arrears may be made in the court where the maintenance order was made or in the District Court (depending on the remedy sought).

Can a maintenance debtor's employer be directed to deduct maintenance payments from earnings?

If the maintenance debtor is an employee then the maintenance creditor can obtain an 'attachment of earnings' order. This is an order directing the maintenance debtor's employers to deduct a specified sum from the debtor's wages.

When a court makes an attachment of earnings order it must specify the normal deduction rate and the protected earnings rate. The normal deduction rate is the amount to be deducted and paid over to the maintenance creditor. The protected earnings rate is the rate beneath which the debtor's income will not fall and is designed to match the reasonable needs and expenses of the debtor.

Can the amount of maintenance be changed/varied at any stage?

Where maintenance orders have been made through the courts either party can make an application to the court to have the amount of maintenance changed, if there has been a change in the financial circumstancesof either party.

A change in the maintenance is usually called a 'variation'. A variation can be an increase or decrease in the amount. The party bringing the application for a variation must be able to show the court that there has been sufficient change in financial circumstances to warrant a change.

If there is an attachment of earnings order in place it will be necessary to apply to vary the attachment of earnings order if the amount of maintenance is changed.

Does a parent who pays maintenance gain any rights over the children?

No. Paying maintenance does not give a parent any rights of guardianship or access.

If my child's other parent marries someone else do I still have to pay maintenance?

Yes. Unless the new spouse adopts the child.

My child's other parent lives abroad, can I get maintenance?

Ireland is a party to various international conventions which allow for persons living in certain countries to recover maintenance from persons living in certain other countries. EU Regulations facilitate the recovery of maintenance throughout the European Union.

For information relating to claims for maintenance in respect of persons living in countries outside Ireland contact:

The Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery
Department of Justice and Equality
Bishop's Square,
Redmonds Hill
Dublin 2
Tel: 01 479 0200.  

Can cohabitants claim maintenance?

Under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 a redress scheme was introduced for opposite-sex cohabiting couples who are not married and same-sex cohabiting couples who are not registered in a civil partnership. The scheme aims to provide protection for a financially dependent member of the couple if a long-term cohabiting relationship ends either through death or separation. You do not have any automatic right to get such orders. The court may make such orders if it is satisfied that you were financially dependent on your cohabitant partner.

Redress orders may include maintenance orders, property adjustment orders, pension adjustment orders and attachment of earnings orders. To apply for redress you must be a qualified cohabitant under the terms of section 172 of the Act.

Relevant legislation

  • Illegitimate Children (Affiliation Orders) Act, 1930
  • Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964
  • Maintenance Orders Act, 1974
  • S.I. No. 23 of 1975: Maintenance Order Act (Commencement) Order, 1975
  • Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses & Children) Act, 1976
  • Status of Children Act, 1987
  • Maintenance Act, 1994
  • Family Law Act, 1995
  • Divorce Act, 1996
  • Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, 2010
  • Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2011
  • S.I. No. 274 of 2011: European Community (Maintenance Regulations), 2011
  • Children and Family Relationships Act 2015


Court Rules

  • S.I. No. 93 of 1997:District Court Rules, 1997
  • S.I. No. 42 of 1998:District Court Family Law Rules
  • S.I. No. 414 of 2011:District Court (Civil Partnership and Cohabitation) Rules, 2011
  • S.I. No. 17 of 2016: District Court (Children and Family Relationships Act 2015) Rules 2016
  • S.I. No. 510 of 2001:Circuit Court Rules, 2001
  • S.I. No. 312 of 2007:Circuit Court Rules (General), 2007
  • S.I. No. 358 of 2008:Circuit Court Rules (Case Progression in Family Law Proceedings)
  • S.I. No. 15 of 1986:Superior Court Rules
  • S.I. No. 385 of 2011:Circuit Court Rules (Civil Partnership and Cohabitation), 2011 


Page updated: 18 August 2016