Respondent (child maintenance)

When you have been served a copy of the applicant’s application for financial provision, you do not need to respond in writing to the applicant or the court.

On the application there will be the time and date of the directions hearing, you must attend.

No. Any information you have that will be relevant to the court proceedings should be brought with you to the directions hearing.

If you fail to turn up to court for a hearing, the Deemster may proceed to make an order in your absence.

What do I do?

If, after receiving the application, you agree to pay what has been applied for you should be able to come to an agreement privately with the applicant. If you have reached an agreement then you should write into the court to inform them.

You can then either proceed with a private agreement without a court order, or you can request that an order be made administratively. Be aware if you continue with a private agreement, the court will have nothing on record to enforce if the applicant then subsequently says you have not paid what you said you would. It is also better to have it on record so the applicant can’t attempt to change the terms of the agreement whenever they want to.

It is recommended that you request the payments go through the Chief Registrar, so the court will have an exact record of how much has been paid when. If you wish your maintenance payments to be paid through the Chief Registrar then you must ask the court: they cannot advise you to ask for this. If you have not requested payments through the Chief Registrar in your application, then make it known to the Deemster at the directions hearing that this is what you wish to happen. This is particularly advantageous as it can be kept as a complete record of your payments history if the applicant states that you haven’t been paying what the order says you should be.

What if I can't afford to pay the amount asked for straight away?

If you agree in principle to the amount stated in the application, but are unable for some reason to begin payments straight away, or are unable to pay the full amount straight away, then you should bring the matter into the court. The Deemster will then consider your situation concerning the payment options and make an order.

If you decide that the amount being applied for is too much, or you want to defend the application itself, you may decide to dispute it in court.

Will the case go straight to court?

If you decide to dispute the application in court, the matter will be set down for a 10 minute directions hearing. In this hearing the Deemster will request any documentation he wishes either party to submit. This will usually include asking you to file an affidavit of means to prove your income and outgoings.

Disclosure of documents.

If the matter proceeds to a full hearing, the Deemster may then order full disclosure. Here you and the applicant will be required to submit details of what was recorded in your affidavits of means. This may include bank statements, wage slips, mortgage repayment forms, educational bills and any other monthly outgoings from both parties.

The Deemster may also order that any new spouse/co-habitants of either party be required to submit evidence of their contributions to the household and upbringing costs of the children.

What if I do not want to disclose all my financial documents?

If the Deemster orders full disclosure, you must disclose all of your documents with regards to your financial situation and dealings. If you refuse to disclose the Deemster may make an order in the absence of these documents to your disadvantage, and you could be held in contempt of court for refusing to obey a court order.

What happens if I do not attend court?

If you do not turn up to court for a hearing, the Deemster may proceed to make an order in your absence.

What will the Deemster do?

After hearing all the evidence the Deemster will make an order. This could be any, or a combination of, the following;

  • a periodical payments order (usually monthly payments of a fixed amount)

  • a lump sum order (a one-off payment)

  • a transfer of property order

  • a maintenance pending suit (for maintenance while the proceedings are still ongoing).

If you cannot afford to pay the maintenance instalments for any reason, you must bring this to court: non payment will result in action being taken against you

Can I change the order?

Over time, the circumstances that the original order was made under can change. If you feel that your circumstances have changed to the point where you can no longer pay the maintenance, you should apply to the court to vary the order.

How do I vary the order?

Complete Form FB2 - Notice of Application For Variation Of Order (Word doc) (PDF) and submit it to the court. This will ask the court to vary the original order and reduce the instalments. You will need to submit details about your income and spending. Remember to include the amount you can afford to pay.

What circumstances can lead to a variation of the order?

The following are some examples of where the court may decide that the order should be varied:

  • you may have lost your job, or had your salary reduced

  • you have a long term illness that is preventing you from working

  • you have another/new family to provide for in addition to your child maintenance

  • the other parent/guardian of the child has remarried or is co-habiting with another person

  • the other parent/guardian of the child has come into a large sum of money

  • you are in serious financial debt.

These are just a few examples of a situation that may lead to the court varying an order; you should consult with an advocate with regards to your situation.

How will the judge vary the order?

The judge has full power to vary the order as he/she sees fit. After listening to your case he/she may decide to:

  • reduce the monthly payments

  • award a lump sum to the applicant in place of periodical payments

  • award a lump sum and smaller monthly payments

  • suspend the payments for a period of time

  • he could order that the original order should be revoked and you should be free from paying any maintenance payments.

It is up to you to serve a copy of your application on both the court and the applicant. You should be aware that the judge could decide that you do not have a case for varying the order, and order that the original order should be enforced.

What if I do nothing?

If you do not pay anything once a court order has been issued, or if you do not keep up with the payments, the applicant can apply to the court to enforce the order. The court may also apply;

  • an attachment of earnings order

  • an arrestment order

  • a charging order.

If you continue to avoid paying, the maintenance department may issue a letter of warning, a summons to appear in court or if you continue to avoid payments, a warrant against you to force your attendance at a Magistrate’s Court. Be aware that a prison sentence could be imposed on you for continuous non-payment.

Page last updated on 10 August 2018