I have been served with a maintenance summons
If you have been served with a maintenance summons, it means that another person is applying to the court for a maintenance order. Maintenance is financial support. It means money paid by one person for the benefit of another person.
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The person making the application is called the applicant. You are called the respondent.
The summons is a command to attend court. It will tell you the date, time, and place of the court hearing. It will also tell you if you need to complete any documentation before the court date.
You should read the summons and any included documents very carefully. It will tell you what the other person is applying for. The most common maintenance applications are:
- A new maintenance order.
- To change an existing maintenance order. This is known as varying a maintenance order.
- To end an existing maintenance order in full or part of it . This is known as discharging a maintenance order.
- To have maintenance payments deducted directly from your wages. This is known as an Attachment of Earnings Order.
- To recover arrears of maintenance payments if maintenance is not being paid.
Your next steps
Once you have read and understood what's in the summons, your next steps are:
1. Consider mediation and legal advice
Family Law decisions can have an impact on things such as maintenance, arrangements for your children, the family home, money, assets and pensions.
Before attending court, you should consider reaching an agreement with the help of a mediator or a solicitor.
Mediation can help to resolve any disputes you may have regarding maintenance. It is a confidential service. All mediators are neutral.
Mediation is not there to help couples reconcile. It is there to encourage you to cooperate and work out mutually acceptable arrangements. During mediation, you can meet with the mediator together or separately.
On average, mediation takes between three and six one-hour sessions.
If you have children, your mediator can ensure that the voice of the child is heard during the mediation process.
Your agreement can be changed or amended as needed. You will need to go to court to do this if, for example, your mediated agreement has been made a rule of court or forms part of a court order.
You might also want to get legal advice to understand your options. While the Courts Service cannot advise or represent people in court, we can inform you that services offered by a legal representative should include:
- advising you of your legal rights
- outlining how you might reach agreement
- preparing and filing your paperwork
- speaking on your behalf in court
You can decide to represent yourself in your law matter. If you decide to represent yourself, you will need to understand court procedures.
2. Consider other support services available
We understand that many court users may need support and assistance during their court journey. There are many support services available to advise you on your maintenance rights and obligations.
3. Attend the court hearing
The maintenance summons is a command to attend court on the date stated in the summons. This will be for an "in camera" hearing which means it will be held in private. The applicant must also attend court on the date stated in the summons.
When the case is heard, both you and the applicant will be required to present your cases to the judge.
You should bring information about your financial circumstances to the court hearing. For example, the judge may have questions about your:
- Income such as income from employment, social welfare benefits, or other sources.
- Assets such as information and valuations of land, property, vehicles, or other assets.
- Expenditure such as household bills, loan repayments, or other expenses you have.
- Supports for other people such as maintenance payments for other dependent children.
Both you and the applicant will get an opportunity to give evidence to the court and ask the other party any questions about their evidence. The judge may also ask additional questions. After hearing all of the evidence, the judge will then make a decision on the application. This is called a court order. In maintenance cases it is called a maintenance order.
If the applicant fails to attend court, the case may be struck out by the judge. This means that the case will not go ahead and the applicant will have to start the entire process again.
If you fail to appear, the judge may make an order in your absence. The applicant may also ask the judge to issue a warrant to have you arrested and brought to court. If the judge makes this order, the court office will send a warrant to the Gardaí. When the Gardaí bring you before the court, the judge will set a new date to deal with the case. The court office will notify the applicant of this new date.
4. Receive the maintenance order
After the court hearing, the court office will finalise the maintenance order. The court office will post a copy of the order to both you and the applicant - or your solicitors - as soon as it is ready. If an Attachment of Earnings Order is made, a copy will also be sent to your employer.
If you do not receive the court order within four weeks, contact the court office.
You have the right to appeal if you are not happy with the decision of the judge. If you wish to appeal the decision, you must file your appeal documents within fourteen days of the court hearing.