Child maintenance is the sum of money periodically given either on a monthly basis or a four week basis to the resident parent by the non-resident parent. Resident parent means the parent having the child residing with him/her and non-resident parent means the parent who has access or visitation rights to the child only.
Child maintenance is not money given to the resident parent for her/himself but child maintenance is given to the resident parent to be used for the child. Normally when one computes the sum to be given one takes into consideration things like clothing, food, water & electricity (proportionate), fuel (proportionate), Internet (proportionate) and other expenses incurred over a determinate period of time for the child as well as the salaries/income of the parents. The amount arrived at needs o be shared by both parents. Therefore, if the non-resident parent is paying X amount in child maintenance, it is equally expected that the resident parent pays the same X amount.
At present, Maltese law does not provide a formula in which we can compute the expenses, salaries etc to come up with a determinate sum. At the moment, the sum to be determined, is either agreed upon by the parties themselves during mediation proceedings or else by the Court when one files an application in court. However, child maintenance cannot be unsustainable for the person paying it. One needs to take into account the non-resident parent's expenses and one must make sure that the non-resident parent will have enough money to live on. One cannot cripple the non-resident parent. The resident parent cannot expect the non-resident parent to pay for costs which the non-resident parent either has not consented to or does not afford or will cripple him/her. When determining child maintenance one must take into account the children's lifestyle before the separation or relationship breakdown. Ideally, that lifestyle is maintained as the children should not suffer financially because of their parents' breakdown. However, in most cases, after a breakdown, the parties' financial lifestyle will change, and therefore, when determining child maintenance a compromise must be reached.
Maintenance does not normally include health and educational costs. Therefore, these are not computed in the maintenance sum but the parents are expected to share these expenses between them. However, one must keep in mind that the resident parent must communicate with the non-resident parent on these expenses. If the parents enjoy joint care and custody, the resident parent has to communicate to the non-resident parent and should not present the non-resident parent with receipts for decisions which have already been taken by her/him. If communication is sought, and such communication should be civil, then trust can be built and the parties can co-parent in the best interests of their child.
Article written by Dr Ann Marie Mangion.