Bill tabled to decouple child maintenance rates from minimum wage levels

Maris Lauri (Reform).
Maris Lauri (Reform). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Child maintenance rates will no longer be linked to the minimum wage, if a newly-drafted bill passes at the Riigikogu. This, it is hoped, will reduce the burden on those paying maintenance, following the recent raise in the minimum wage, and in turn should alleviate the large numbers of court cases – in the thousands per year – held in relation to maintenance.

Justice minister Maris Lauri (Reform), whose ministry prepared the draft legislation to enact the change, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Wednesday night that: "Figuratively speaking, if the minimum wage rises next year, the maintenance payer, if they have to pay for three children, for instance, will have to pay €1,000. But given our average monthly wage is a little over €1,500, this is no small amount."

This trend has been ongoing for several years, AK reported, and has led to many child maintenance disputes – courts heard around 2,500 of these last year alone.

The law change proposed by the ministry, should it pass, will not reverse or amend earlier court decisions, however.

Lauri said: "In cases which have been decided in the court and decisions made based on the amount of maintenance being related to the minimum wage, the proposed is to fix it at the current level, which is currently €292," referring to the amount per child.

Ardi Kadanik, representing the an NGO called Isade Eest ("For Fathers"), said that while his organization is generally in favor of the changes, maintenance court cases will still continue or even grow.

He said: "The fact that these decisions will not be changed automatically means that all those debtors who feel that they have been overdue or unable to pay must go to court again."

Maintenance debtors have been growing, and currently stand at close to 10,000, AK reported.

The new bill exempts maintenance from the minimum wage, based on the needs of children, Lairi said, putting the figure at about €200 per child, with the average wage and increases to it being taken into account.

The number of children and the number of days each child is with one or other parent is also factored in.

Ardi Kadanik said that a child would need to be with a father for at least seven days in a month to qualify, whereas the result might be that fathers see even less of their children than before.

The justice ministry says it is developing an online calculator to assist in estimating amounts of maintenance due, while the bill itself will need to pass three Riigikogu readings, the first of which will be held this month, before it can enter into force.

The minimum was wage earlier this week set at €654 per month for 2022, up from €584, a level in place for two years straight, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its economic effects.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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