The law contains a number of provisions to ensure that payments are made by spouses in support of their dependent spouses and children. These include enabling powers for the courts to order attachment of the earnings of a debtor spouse, to order the securing of payments to the maintenance creditor, to order the payment of lump sums and to order arrears of maintenance to be paid by instalments.
As the Deputy may be aware, following my appointment I introduced amending legislation in Section 31 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 which provided for the amendment of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act 1976. The amendment, which came into effect on 2 August, 2011, provides for the insertion of two new sections into the 1976 Act which set out procedures to be followed in the District court regarding arrears of maintenance payments and confers power on the District Court to regard as contempt of court a failure by a maintenance debtor to comply with a previous court order and to deal with such a breach accordingly, including by means of imprisonment.
In addition, the enforcement of maintenance orders from abroad is provided for in the Maintenance Act 1994, which enabled Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance Payments (the New York Convention), which came into effect for Ireland in November 1995. EU countries are covered specifically by Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations. Under both instruments, a Central Authority has been established in my Department to facilitate the transmitting and receiving of maintenance claims to the relevant authorities for enforcement.