There are ways to recover maintenance payments if they are not being paid by the maintenance debtor.
- If you made a voluntary agreement about maintenance and those payments are not being made, you might want to get legal advice to understand your options.
- If a judge made a court order about maintenance and those payments are not being made, you can ask a judge to make a decision about enforcing the order.
Recovering maintenance can also depend on whether the maintenance debtor is living in Ireland or living abroad.
Non-payment by a person living in Ireland
There are two main ways to recover non-paid maintenance from someone living in Ireland:
1: Apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order
This order means an employer or private pension provider must deduct the maintenance payments from the maintenance debtor's wages, salary or pension plan. It is a court order which means it is made by a judge. Most applications for an Attachment of Earnings Order are made in the District Court.
An Attachment of Earnings Order is only of benefit to you when the maintenance debtor is:
- in a private pension scheme or has a private pension plan
Sometimes the maintenance debtor can fall behind on their regular payment or series of payments. In this situation, you can apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order.
2: Apply to recover maintenance payments not paid
If the maintenance debtor is self-employed in Ireland or you don't want to apply for an Attachment of Earnings Order, you can apply to the court to recover any payments not made.
If the original maintenance order was made in the District Court, the most common way to do this is to apply in writing asking a District Court Clerk to issue a summons. This summons is called a Summons for the Attendance of a Maintenance Debtor.
This summons will command the maintenance debtor to attend a court hearing and explain why the maintenance payments have not been paid.
At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence from you and the maintenance debtor, and make a decision. Some of the decisions a judge can make include:
- Adjourning the case to allow for payment of any arrears of maintenance.
- Varying the existing maintenance order.
- Treating the non-payment of maintenance as a contempt of court. If the judge decides to do this, they can make an order to imprison the maintenance debtor.
In some situations, you can recover unpaid maintenance by applying to the court for an Enforcement Order. It is a less common approach but can be used to enforce a maintenance order made in the District Court, Circuit Court or High Court as well as foreign maintenance orders.
Non-payment by a person living abroad
To help you get maintenance from someone living abroad:
- Contact the Central Authority for Maintenance Recovery in the Department of Justice. You must have the other person's address.
- The process may take a long time. It generally involves no legal costs if you are pursuing maintenance yourself. You may incur fees if you seek professional legal advice.
- The procedure is similar whether the maintenance debtor lives in the EU, the US or other countries that have signed up to international conventions such as the New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance 1956