Whom Liable For
The social welfare legislation defines parties who are liable relatives for the purpose of maintenance in the above contexts. A man is liable to maintain the following:
- former wife after the dissolution of marriage,
- civil partner,
- former civil partner after dissolution;
A woman is liable to maintain
- former husband after dissolution,
- civil partner,
- former civil partner.
A person is liable to maintain his or her child under 18 or over 18 years and under 22 years , in full-time education or instruction by day in an university, college or other educational establishment.
The Department may require a liable relative to make payments to the claimant. Sums can be deducted from social welfare payments made to the claimant. There is a standalone procedure whereby the Department may apply to the District Court directing the person to make the payments or repayments.
A liable relative and his employer, may be contacted by the Department on the basis of information provided by the beneficiary. Information may be required from the person concerned and their employer. They may be interviewed.
There are obligations to provide information. Failure to supply the relevant information is an offence.
The amount required to be contributed may be based on
- income after deduction of tax and social welfare contributions and maintenance payments for which the person is liable in respect of spouse and children,
- the deemed value of capital assets relative to a deemed return where they do not generate returns, similar to those set out in other contexts,
- gross income other than income from property which is deemed to yield return (at €4 per week per €1000) to the extent it exceeds €40,000 with lower rates applicable before that.
An amount up to €4,952 per annum of any rent or repayment of a loan entered for the purpose of defraying money employed in the purchase of a property in which the liable person is residing or if he has a remarried, may be disregarded. It he is cohabiting with another; the rent is reduced to half that figure.
The amounts above are reduced by IQC payable with one-family parent (€26 for each qualifying child the person is liable to maintain).
The amount to be paid by the liable relative, is calculated as above. The amount of weekly allowance is payable to the person or parent of the person whom he is liable to maintain or in the case of a qualified child of an unmarried person, the maximum amount that may be set under Maintenance of Spouse and Children legislation with respect of each qualified child.
The Minister is required to take action in the District Court to recover contributions by way of installment order or attachment of earnings order. The attachment of earnings order may be sent to an employer and deducted accordingly.
A determination is first issued in relation to the amount of contribution due. An order for arrest and imprisonment may be sought for noncompliance.
It may be a Constitutional requirements require that the matter of liability can be opened and readdressed by the court, rather than by reference to the rigid statutory requirements.
The matter may also be affected by transfers made in the context of family law proceedings in partial satisfaction of maintenance obligations.
In legal terms, the entitlement to lone parent payments and one-parent family payments are not to be taken into account in determining maintenance obligations in family law proceedings. However, the courts may, in practice, in implicitly take account of the same.
The financial and new dependency situation of each liable relative is first assessed in detail. (This is usually done at the same time as the One-Parent Family Payment or Deserted Wife’s Benefit / Allowance claim is being investigated.)
The assessment is based on the net income of the liable relative.
- Allowances are made for any child dependants s/he has, and credit is given for any regular outgoings such as mortgage or house rent.
- The section determines (by way of ‘Determination Order’) the ability of the person concerned to contribute towards the benefit / allowance, and the amount of weekly contribution due.
- Determinations can be reviewed where there is new information about, or changes in, the financial or household circumstances of a liable relative.
Any person who is getting Deserted Wife’s Benefit / Allowance or One-Parent Family Payment is liable to transfer to the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, payments received in compliance with a Court Order, including maintenance paid to children.
Under the One-Parent Family Payment both personal and child maintenance payments are assessed as means; rent or mortgage repayments may be disregarded in assessing maintenance payments, up to a ceiling of €95.23 per week. However, if the maintenance is not assessed as means, a transfer of the maintenance order to the Department may be requested.
The Department rather than the lone parent carries the risk of maintenance default by the liable relative. In the case of One-Parent Family Payment and Deserted Wife’s Allowance, the means may be re-assessed on transfer of the Maintenance Order to the Department. There is no means adjustment possible in the case of Deserted Wife’s Benefit claims.
A person’s One-Parent Family Payment or Deserted Wife’s Benefit / Allowance may be reduced or stopped if they do not comply with a request to transfer their maintenance to the Department.