Farmer with 80 acres told to pay maintenance arrears or go to jail
A judge warned a farmer “with a fine farm of land” that if he doesn’t start to pay the €13,593 he owes in maintenance payments towards his daughter, he will go to jail.
At the Family Law Court, Judge Mary Larkin said the farmer “hasn’t paid a penny” in maintenance since 2016, adding: “I am absolutely certain you have capacity to pay and that you choose not to pay. You must commence payments.”
Judge Larkin made her comments after the farmer confirmed to the court that he has a farm of 80 acres — that he says is designated “disadvantaged” — and has 15 cows.
The maintenance court order in place specifies that the man pay his estranged partner €76 per week and an additional €40 in arrears.
Asked why he hasn’t complied with the court order, the farmer said he is self-employed and has been on a Covid-19 payment for the last year.
Judge Larkin said that if people waived court orders whenever they felt like it, “we would have chaos”.
The farmer replied: “It is not whenever I feel like it — I am self-employed.”
In response, Judge Larkin said: “Covid wasn’t running around the place in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. This is your child that you are responsible for.
“You have a fine farm of land that you say is disadvantaged.”
Judge Larkin said the man also does other agricultural work outside his farm.
She warned him that the High Court has determined that “people with assets are not entitled to maintain their property in assets when they have obligations in relation to maintenance”.
“And a High Court judge would say to someone with assets, you just sell off land and pay the €13,593.
“You get legal advice as to how you are going to pay off this debt and you are entitled to civil legal aid.”
Judge Larkin warned the man that on the adjourned date in court, “If you continue not to pay, and I continue to be satisfied that you are choosing not to pay and you have capacity to pay, I will jail you.
“You will not be first man I have jailed for not failing to comply with maintenance obligations.”