Bill aims to link child maintenance payment to ability to pay

The Ministry Building at Suur Ameerika 1 in Tallinn, where several ministries are located including the Ministry of Finance.
The Ministry Building at Suur Ameerika 1 in Tallinn, where several ministries are located including the Ministry of Finance. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

The Estonian Ministry of Justice is seeking opinions on an intention to change the current law under the Family Law Act, so that the size of maintenance allowance come to depend on the income of the person paying it, the number of children benefiting, and their respective needs.

"The minimum maintenance allowance prescribed in the present Family Law Act is often too excessive for the payer, which can have a demotivating effect on them and result in financial obligations that cannot be met,'' Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu was reported to have said.

''As a result, the present maintenance allowance doesn't meet its goals and doesn't protect the best interests of a child," he reportedly went on.

According to the proposed bill, the minimum maintenance allowance sum would constitute half of the subsistence level, which this year is €84 per month.

The size of the maintenance allowance would also be linked to the income of that parent that does not live with the child, constituting a certain percentage of that parent's net income. More specific equations and ratios are to be determined in the course of drawing up the bill, but according to initial plans the maintenance allowance sum paid for two children is likely to be around 33% of a parent's net income.

Online child maintenance calculator

The ministry is also proposing an online maintenance allowance calculator, which would be available to the public.

According to reports, good examples of such calculators are already in use in Finland and Germany.

"In Finland, a child's needs as well as the abilities of both parents to support them are taken into account," Reisalu reportedly said, adding that the same thing also happens in Germany.

"Since living standards and opportunities for parents are extremely diverse in Estonia, in our opinion the maintenance allowance calculator could be used to set up as flexible of a system as needed, and examples of this from our neighbouring countries are a great model," Reinsalu is reported to have said.

The proposed amendments will also see the maintenance allowance sum being tied to the number of children, and the minimum percentage of the paying parent's net income which the parent should have after the payment has been made would also be determined.

According to the ministry, the maintenance allowance calculator would reduce the number of court cases regarding maintenance, since the parents would be able to calculate for themselves the requisite sum.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: BNS

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