There is a legal responsibility in Ireland on parents, whether married or unmarried, to maintain dependent children in accordance with their means. Maintenance can be paid periodically (i.e., weekly or monthly) or in a lump sum. In Ireland, paying maintenance does not in itself give a parent access or guardianship rights.
In situations where parents are separated, they can make informal agreements regarding maintenance. This can work well where both parties are reasonable and fair - but it is difficult to assess informally how much maintenance should be paid. If parents find it difficult to come to an arrangement which satisfies both parties, they may find that mediation can help. Alternatively, each side can engage their own legal advice who will act as negotiator of an agreement. Both parties can then sign this agreement which can later be made a rule of court. A rule of court means that these agreements have the same effect as a maintenance order. Informal agreements can include a property transfer or a lump sum payment but it cannot rule out the possibility of applying for a maintenance order through the courts in the future.
If the parties cannot agree upon maintenance, either party can apply to court for a maintenance order. An application for maintenance can be brought either in the District or Circuit Court. Each party must disclose their finances to the court and the judge will consider the needs of the child/children taking into account all of the family's circumstances when making a maintenance order.