Written answers

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Maintenance Payments

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Question 13: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to reform maintenance laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5729/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The provisions in the law for ensuring that payments continue to be made by spouses in support of their dependent spouses and children are comprehensive. They include enabling powers for the courts to order attachment of the earnings of a debtor spouse, to order the securing of payments to the maintenance creditor, to order the payment of lump sums and to order arrears of maintenance to be paid by instalments.

While the law generally operates successfully in this area I am aware that difficulties have arisen in some cases because of the effect of a judgment of the High Court last year. The High Court judgement in that particular case had implications for sections 6 (imprisonment in the case of non-payment of debt) and 8 (imprisonment relating to non-payment of maintenance) of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act 1940. The Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009 made changes in the law consequent on that judgment. Whilst the particular judgment only referred to section 6, the legal advice was that section 8 should also be amended since it was constructed in a very similar way. The need to establish the debtor's ability to pay has changed the basis on which the enforcement system previously operated - particularly in maintenance cases.

I am in consultation with the Attorney General with a view to developing early proposals for legislation to resolve the difficulties that have arisen in respect of maintenance enforcement.

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