Monday, 26 April 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Marital breakdown and family separation is an unfortunate fact of life, particularly in a modern age when we facilitate it as we should. In the aftermath of that, there are often obligations on parents, where children are involved, and maintenance obligations on the parent who does not have custody of the children. Again, that is as it should be and often it has to be done through a court process, which is unfortunate. In cases where orders are made in respect of maintenance of children, it can often be very difficult for the parent who is to receive the maintenance to enforce that order. Sometimes one parent refuses to engage with the process or to pay what he or she - more often he - should pay. The process by which a parent who is looking after the children can pursue that is very cumbersome and expensive if they do not have access to legal aid.
I wonder whether the time has come for us to have a debate on this. While it is open to parents to seek attachments and even committals, that is, taking the money automatically from the other parent's earnings or, in the worst-case scenario, committing him or her to jail for not following that order, has the time come for us to have a debate about this and to assess whether there should be an independent State agency to make this an administrative function? Such a body would take the matter out of the hands of the court once the order is made and ensure there is an automatic follow-up on the maintenance orders. It is unfortunate and demeaning for the parent who has custody of the children to have to pursue the other parent for money, and it is unfair to ask him or her to do it through the court process.
Will the Leader accommodate a debate in the House to consider establishing an administrative agency or body that can do this as a matter of course to safeguard those families and help those parents who are in circumstances where they have to plead to a former partner for money to which they are entitled under a court order?