How is maintenance decided and arranged?

Where parents were not married, or where there is no separation or divorce, the court can decide on a maintenance order following an application to the court. One parent can apply to the court to order the other parent to pay maintenance for their child or children. In most cases, it is the parent with main custody of the child that makes this application. Where the parents are married, it may also be possible for one spouse to seek maintenance for themselves from the other spouse (spousal maintenance).

Where the terms of a separation have been decided through mediation, the arrangement for maintenance will be agreed in mediation and the mediation agreement will then form the basis of the Deed of Separation or Decree of Judicial Separation/Divorce by agreement (on consent terms). Once the deed of separation is in place the arrangement for maintenance becomes legally binding.

Parents may decide, informally, how maintenance is to be paid and how much, if their relationship allows for this to be done amicably. An arrangement in writing can be made a Rule of Court if the court agrees that it provides for everyone adequately. It then becomes legally binding. A written arrangement made informally and not made a Rule of Court is not enforceable.

Where a marriage ends and there is a judicial separation(where the terms of the legal separation were decided by the court) or divorce, or where the marriage has been dissolved, maintenance will be decided by the court and there will be a ruling setting out how much should be paid, by whom, and how frequently.