Submission to the Law Reform Commission on areas requiring law reform: Examine legal infrastructures designed to secure maintenance payments
Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The Law Reform Commission has begun initial preparations for a new Programme of Law Reform and in that respect has invited submissions as to areas of law that may be in need of reform. The National Women’s Council of Ireland has asked the Commission to examine the legal infrastructures designed to secure maintenance payments. This is because in Ireland, a comparatively low level of maintenance is paid to lone parents by their former partners. According to the Department of Social Protection, which appeared before Joint Committee on Social Protection in October 2016, only 35% are in receipt of child maintenance payments. If maintenance payments are not paid, are not paid on time or if a second parent is unwilling to submit to an agreed maintenance payment regime, then parents are forced to seek payments through an adversarial and costly court system. In other jurisdictions this might take the form of an administrative process. The guaranteed payment of maintenance is becoming increasingly important with the growing number of divorces and the increased prevalence of lone-parent families across Ireland. It is questionable whether such an issue should be dealt with by our already strained court system. In June 2017, the Joint Committee on Social Protection published a Report on the Position of Lone Parents in Ireland which called for a statutory child maintenance system and a review on how child maintenance is assessed by the Department of Social Protection. In March of the same year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women called on the State to consider establishing a statutory maintenance authority and prescribing amounts for child maintenance in order to reduce the burden of women to litigate for child maintenance orders. To read more about the benefits of reform see our paper.