Stay-at-home father’s child maintenance doubled

Man has full custody of two teenage children while ex-wife earns net pay of €620 a week

Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 01:01

A stay-at-home father of two teenagers had his child maintenance doubled at the Family High Court yesterday after his ex-wife applied to alter their divorce order.

The man had full custody of his daughters and their mother’s only access was through letters to them.

The mother’s counsel told Mr Justice Henry Abbott she was not seeking to change access as she hoped it would “grow organically” as the children got older. But she was seeking to change elements of the divorce order including the father’s sole right to the family home.

Mr Justice Henry Abbott heard the father was on lone parent’s allowance and had income of less than €390 a week, including maintenance of €100 a week for his children from his ex-wife, a public servant.

The mother, from whom he divorced in 2012, earned net pay of €620 a week. The couple had separated some years earlier. Asked by counsel for his ex-wife why he “chose not to work outside the home”, the man said the question was laughable. “You’re saying that because I’m a man and at home looking after my children; if I was a housewife you wouldn’t be saying that to me,” he said.

He had been self-employed but went out of business in 2008. The children had initially been in the custody of their mother. The father said for the 3½ years his children lived with their mother “they were subjected to horrific things”. He subsequently got sole custody. The father said the children were now happy and content, but he was finding it financially difficult and had “zero” in his bank account at Christmas. He needed more maintenance, he said. He also had plans to start his own business.

Ex-wife had custody
His ex-wife had custody of the children initially, though, he said, they were with him more than half of the time. He said she had given them “a horrific time” for more than three years. At one point the children had called gardaí and asked to be removed from the home. A psychologist’s report had issued and the children chose to live with their father.

The father said he would “love to see a situation” where his daughters had contact with their mother and “that they have enough confidence for forgiveness”.

The mother told the court she had to pay rent for her one-bedroom home, and was also making additional pension payments. She believed her ex-husband had “some influence” over the children’s opinion of her, the court heard.

Mr Justice Abbott ordered that the weekly maintenance payment be increased to €200. The mother was in part-time employment when the order was made but was now working full time, he said, and there had to be some sense of “celebration and socialisation” for the teenagers, not just “survival”.

He also ordered the family home be sold when the younger child reached 21 and divided 60/40 in favour of the father.

He should also be awarded 25 per cent of the mother’s pension.