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Child maintenance: FAQ

Child maintenance is often a topic of conflict. Some people who pay child support fear that they are actually sponsoring the ex-partner with their payments. In fact, this is usually not the case.

Who has to pay child maintenance?

Parents are basically obliged to support their children until the children are capable of supporting themselves. Contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, the children’s ability to support themselves does not automatically begin at the age of 18. If parents can afford it and the child is capable, children must still be financially supported during college.

The person who mainly cares for the children, i.e. who still lives with the children in the same household  makes his or her contribution through actually taking care of the child. For example, by actually providing for the children (food, care, living space, clothing). The other parent owes monetary support. The parent who is liable to pay support has to transfer the money to the parent who is the main care taker. Often this is still the mother with whom the children live after a separation. The person who pays the child support has no right to demand proof of what the money is spent on or to receive an invoice.

How much child maintenance must be paid?

Relevant is the financial situation of the person who owes child support and also the actual needs of the child.

As a guide, there are percentages to determine the amount of maintenance. Depending on the age of the child, between 16-22 percent of the monthly net income is owed. Other care obligations (other children or spouses) are also taken into account. However, in Austria there is a so-called “playboy limit” or luxury limit, which caps child maintenance above a certain income level.

What does (equal) care have to do with child maintenance?

Normal visitation does not influence the amount of child maintenance per se. The costs incurred for contact times with the children are to be paid additionally. It is not possible, for example, to charge the main caring parent for admission to the zoo, ski lift tickets or the hotel on holiday. In the case of above-average visitation, however, the monetary maintenance obligation may be reduced. If both parents care for the children equally and there are no major differences in income between the parents, money maintenance may even be waived altogether.

If the main caring parent is very wealthy, does maintenance still have to be paid?

Even if the parent with whom the children live is very wealthy, the other parent still has to pay child support. The main caring parent only has to pay money maintenance in exceptional cases, namely if the parent obliged to pay maintenance cannot sufficiently cover the child’s needs or if it would unreasonably overburden them. Also, to the surprise of some, a new love affair of the main caring parent does not automatically lead to the fact that no more child maintenance has to be paid.

Is it possible to make the grandparents pay for child support?

Yes and no. If the parents are unable to meet their maintenance obligation, the grandparents must pay for the child’s maintenance. But: If only one parent is unable to pay, the other parent must first pay the entire alimony. This means that if the alimony is not paid, one cannot simply knock on grandma and grandpa’s door. In addition, the grandparents’ obligation to pay alimony is limited.

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