Social insurance is payable on maintenance payments where there is a legally enforceable agreement between the former spouses unless the individuals concerned are entitled to, and opt for, joint assessment for income purposes. Where social insurance is payable, the former spouses' individual incomes, whether from employment, maintenance payments or other sources, are not regarded in aggregate as "the same moneys". In particular, maintenance payments are not regarded merely as a transfer from one individual to another such as is the case with a married or cohabiting couple who have not separated. In these circumstances, each individual's income becomes an entirely separate entity for social insurance purposes.
Where the couple is separated but the marriage has not been dissolved or annulled and both continue to live in the State, the individuals concerned may opt for joint assessment for income tax purposes i.e. as if they were still living together. In these cases, maintenance payments are disregarded for the purposes of PRSI, income tax and levies even if paid under a legally enforceable maintenance agreement.
This option was extended in the Family Law Act, 1995, to couples who have a foreign divorce where neither has remarried. A provision in the Divorce Bill, which shortly will be enacted, will extend similar treatment to people who, in the future, obtain divorces in Ireland.
Maintenance payments that are not legally enforceable have no significance for PRSI, income tax of levies. In effect, they are treated as a transfer similar to income sharing between a cohabiting couple.