Liability to Maintain Family

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Liability to Maintain the Family 


  • Introduction
  • Family Maintenance
  • Description of Scheme
  • Process 
  • Assessment of Contribution
  • Method of Payment
  • Enforcement  
  • Maintenance Orders


One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) is a payment for men and women under 66 who are bringing children up without the support of a partner. To get this payment you must meet certain conditions and you must satisfy a means test Click  HERE.

Men and women are required, under the law, to pay maintenance to a dependent spouse, civil partner or former cohabitant and any dependent child(ren) who are not living with them. These people are called 'liable relatives'. If you are a liable relative and your ex-spouse, ex-civil partner or former cohabitant have a dependent child(ren) and they receive a One-Parent Family Payment (OFP), you may be required to contribute to the cost of this payment to your family.

Family Maintenance

Maintenance is money paid by a person for the benefit of their dependent spouse/civil partner and/or dependent child(ren).  Spouses/civil partners are required to maintain each other according to their means and needs. Parents, whether married or not, are responsible for the maintenance of their dependent child(ren).  If the parties cannot reach an agreement about maintenance an application can be made to the courts for a maintenance order.

Both parents have a responsibility to support their child(ren) financially. This applies to all parents, whether married, separated, living together or if they have never lived together. The parent with custody of the child(ren) has to take care of them and look after their day-to-day needs. The parent who does not have custody usually has to pay money to the parent with custody. This is to help cover the costs of taking care of the child(ren).

A cohabitant of a person who is a parent, or a cohabitant of a person who has the day-to-day care (loco parentis) of a child may have to financially maintain the child, if that cohabitant is a guardian and is not the parent.

Description of Scheme

As outlined above, family law places a legal responsibility on all parents, whether married or unmarried, to maintain dependent child(ren) and on spouses/civil partners/cohabitants to maintain each other and their child(ren) in accordance with their means.  The services required to implement the family law requirements fall under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality and the Courts.

When any one of the parents apply for a One Parent Family Payment (OFP) from this Department, a contribution towards the cost of this is sought from the other parent(s) of any child(ren) of the relationship.  The Liability to Maintain the Family scheme is managed and administered by the Liable Relatives Unit (LR Unit), Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Government Buildings, St. Alphonsus Road, Dundalk, Co Louth. Tel. 042 9392710.

The functions of the Liable Relatives Unit are 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.

This Department’s responsibilities relating to the liability to maintain the family are contained in Part 12 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, as amended, and in Statutory Instrument 571 of 2006 and Statutory Instrument 142 of 2007, as amended.


When a claim for OFP is made details are sought from the claimant, including the identity of the liable relative (the other parent of the dependent child(ren)).  Once the OFP claim has been awarded, the liable relative may be deemed to have a liability to contribute to the cost.  The liability is determined following an assessment of the liable relative’s means and circumstances.  If they are deemed to be in a position to contribute, that person is contacted by the Department and informed of this.

The OFP claimant is under a general obligation to seek maintenance from the other parent/parents of her or his child(ren) and to demonstrate this. 

The ‘efforts to seek maintenance’ condition is regarded as being satisfied once appropriate attempts have been made to seek maintenance even if this does not result in a maintenance arrangement. This includes evidence of private maintenance arrangements, court proceedings or of a family mediation process.

No effort or attempt is expected to be made in cases of domestic abuse or where there is such a risk from a former partner.

Assessment of Contribution

The financial situation of each liable relative is assessed in detail in order to determine liability. The amount of income directly assessable against the liable relative is the net weekly income (i.e. income from all sources less deductions for income tax and PRSI) with the following deductions as applicable:

  • A "Personal Allowance" is granted in all cases in respect of personal needs. This is the equivalent of the maximum personal weekly rate of One-Parent Family Payment, or Deserted Wife's payment, as appropriate, plus a sum of €19.05.
  • A "Child Dependant Allowance" may be granted in respect of each dependent child residing with the liable relative. To qualify as a dependant, a child must be under eighteen years, or between eighteen years and twenty two years and attending full time education. This allowance is the equivalent of the current Dependent Child Allowance paid with One-Parent Family Payment or Deserted Wife's benefit, as appropriate.
  • An allowance may be granted in respect of "Accommodation Costs", for rent or mortgage expenses incurred by the liable relative in his/her current accommodation up to a maximum of €95.20 per week or €413 per month. If, however, the liable relative is residing with a partner who is in employment, and is not in receipt of a Social Welfare payment, then only half of those expenses are allowable.
In addition to the above, the Department may take into account the capital value of any additional property belonging to the liable relative (this excludes the property he/she is living in).

The weekly contribution due by the liable relative will be either:-
  (a) The amount of income assessed by the Department
  (b) The weekly rate of One-Parent Family Payment less any maintenance payments made by the liable relative to the spouse/civil partner/cohabitant
  (c) In the case of an unmarried person an amount not exceeding €150 per week

An explanation of the assessment and allowances will be furnished to each liable relative with a copy of the decision on the amount he/she is liable to contribute.

The liable relative can appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office within 21 days if he/she is not satisfied with the determination made by the deciding officer.
Method of Payment
If a liability is assessed, the liable relative can either pay the other parent of the child(ren) or the Department directly.  If the liable relative choses to pay the other parent of the child or children directly, the Department will want to see proof of this and may ask for records that payments have being made.  It should also be noted that this arrangement could lead to a reduction in the rate of One-Parent Family Payment received by the other parent of the child(ren).



There may be occasions when the parties will be interviewed by a Social Welfare Inspector to establish any facts.

Information requested by the Department from a liable relative or his/her employer (which is required for the purposes of deciding the amount to be contributed) must be furnished to the Department within seven days of request.  Failure to co-operate with requests from a Social Welfare Inspector or from the Liable Relatives Unit for information constitutes an offence under Social Welfare law which, on conviction, can lead to a fine or imprisonment.

The Department is empowered to apply to the District Court for an order directing that contributions be paid.  The Department may also apply to the District Court to have an Attachment of Earnings Order made against a liable relative.

Maintenance Orders

In summary, personal and child maintenance are assessed as means for the purpose of Social Welfare payments. Up to €4,952 per annum in housing costs can be disregarded in the assessment.

Where a person in receipt of Deserted Wife's Benefit, Deserted Wife's Allowance or One-Parent Family Payment is receiving maintenance payments by way of a Family Law Court Order, (either a Family Law Maintenance Order or a Separation Agreement which has gone through the court and has a Maintenance clause in it) and those maintenance payments have not been assessed in deciding his/her rate of payment, then s/he is liable to transfer any maintenance payments received to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, including any payments made in respect of  children.

Last modified:09/01/2019

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