Definition of maintenance
The Maltese Civil Code [Chapter 16 of the Laws of Malta] clearly defines that maintenance shall include food, clothing, health and habitation but maintenance for children shall also include the necessary expenses for education. The said Act also gives definite criteria as to how the Maltese Courts shall come to the decision about the amount that shall be received by the person claiming it. Indeed, such act states that maintenance shall be due in proportion to the needs of the person claiming it and to the means of the person liable to give it. The person liable to give it can always ask for the amount to be reduced or to be released from such obligation if such person will not be anymore in a position to provide for it.
Maintenance for children
Maintenance for children is an important element that needs to be provided for from when the children are born until, at least, they attain the age of majority. Maintenance for children was indeed one of the highest discussable issues during the enactment of the Malta divorce law. However, our legislators always made sure, even during the enactment of divorce law, which law came into force in October 2011 that maintenance for children is safeguarded for. The duty on the parents to provide allowance’s for children arises both during the course of marriage and also when the parents separate, divorce or take an annulment. Hence, the status of the parents and maintenance for children are two different things and whether the parents are single, separated, divorced or widowed, they always have an obligation to maintain their children. Indeed, the Maltese Civil Code makes it clear that upon separation, annulment or divorce pronouncements, the maintenance for children shall still continue to be contributed for as according to law.
The government also gives the children’s allowance which allowance is granted every three months to the person having legal care and custody of the children concerned. Besides this allowance there are also allowances for children with disability, where a medical board examines the child concerned to decide whether the disability falls within the provisions of the Social Act or otherwise.
Additionally, the Department of Social Security, on behalf of the Government, grants single mothers who have the legal care and custody of their children relief which is received by these single mothers every month but such single mothers provided that the said mother does not work at all or shall only work only few hours because otherwise, the excess that they would be earning would be deducted from such relief amount they are entitled to. Hence, it can be said that maintenance and relief are important for single mothers since relief is the only income they are receiving to be able to maintain their children and divorce makes this even more clear. Another important issue is that single mothers have the right to ask for maintenance from the children’s father as in the case of separation, divorce or annulment.
There can also be situations where the person having legal care and custody of the children might ask help from the Government since the income for such person is usually very low. Some of these schemes are Scheme A which concerns the Subsidy on Adaptation Works in owner occupied, privately rented or government rented residences, Scheme GALR(Grant Assistance on Loan Repayments) and Scheme GFR (Grant to Assist Owners in the Construction and / or Completion or Rehabilitation of their First Home).
This is a very complex subject and the dynamics change so each case has to be tackled in accordance with its own merits.
Maintenance from the spouse
There can be situations during separation and divorce proceedings where any one of the spouses requests maintenance from the other spouse. A highly significant point to mention is that any spouse can ask this from the other spouse which means that the husband can ask from his wife and also vice versa. Indeed, there are many cases, where the husband asks for it from his wife since his wife would be earning more than him. An issue that many people might not be aware of is that the Maltese Civil Code [Chapter 16 of the Laws of Malta] states that when both the children and the spouse ask for maintenance, they shall rank equally for it.
However, situations during marriage that will end the obligation on the spouse to maintain the other spouse is when the spouse receiving maintenance from the other spouse leaves the matrimonial home and refuses to return to such home without a good reason or carries out an act of adultery.
Moreover, when the spouse receiving maintenance remarries after the pronouncement of divorce, such spouse shall lose such right to receive it from the other spouse but if a spouse receives a lump sum upon pronouncement of divorce and this spouse decides to remarry, this spouse is in no way obliged to give back the amount received from the other spouse.
Nevertheless, there may also be situations where both spouses decide to renounce to such right to ask for it from the other spouse since in today’s world, both spouses are financially independent.
Additionally, upon the pronouncement of annulment, there is no right for any of the spouses to ask for maintenance from the other spouse since such marriage would be declared null and void and since these spouses would be declared as they have never been married then it would not make sense for the it issue to arise at all. There could be clauses drawn up in a separation agreement that it is not varied by the pronunciation of divorce or annulment however strictly speaking there right of it is terminated upon the lapse of time as indicated in the law. Again all cases have to be taken by their own merits.