The Family Law Acts place a legal obligation on parents to maintain their children. In cases where the family unit has broken down these obligations continue to apply. Relevant maintenance payments can be arranged either directly between the parties themselves, or with the assistance of supports from the Department of Justice and Equality, such as the Family Mediation Service and the Legal Aid Board, or ultimately through the Courts.
When any one of the parents applies for a One Parent Family Payment from my department, a contribution towards the cost of this is sought from the other parent of any children of the relationship.
The Liability to Maintain the Family scheme, as it is known, is managed and administered by my department and its role is to:
- determine on the basis of income information supplied, whether the liable relative is in a position to contribute to the department,
- determine the amount of contribution due by the liable relative,
- monitor and enforce payment of the contributions due, and
- engage with both parties to ensure the requirements of the legislation are met.
I have had a number of discussions with stakeholders, experts and those affected by the current regime. On this basis I have tasked officials in my Department to examine international best practice on maintenance and report back to me with options on how best Ireland can achieve better outcomes in a proactive manner for families.