Within marital relationship both parents have a moral and legal obligation to financially support their children while they are growing up; inside or outside the marital relationship. Child maintenance usually entails regular financial payments made towards a child’s everyday living expenditure including education and leisure time. Payments are regular and their non-performance may lead to undesired consequences including the forwarding of formal letter notice or legal offence. In addition, especially in Italy, child maintenance is strict and parents are required to proceed with payments even though temporary unemployed or in economic disadvantages.
Given the previous scenario, COVID-19 is now disrupting global economies while private professionals are seeing a significant reduction in their income. Subsequently, it is clear that there were some genuine circumstances in which parents will not be able to pay child maintenance due to the reduction of their incomes.
Many jurisdictions included an exemption for debtors that are not able to perform their contractual obligations. For instance, Italian Civil Code states that in the event of objective inability to perform a given contractual obligation, the debtor will not be liable for his/her non-payments. Therefore, in the child maintenance context, the law authorised parent to negotiate a reduction or better conditions of aid scheme. In the event of new agreement, this must be forwarded to the Court of Appeal with the purpose of obtaining its authorisation to the new agreement.
In the event it is impossible to find an agreement between former spouses, the parent shall communicate the reasons that make child maintenance payment impossible. Subsequently, the spouse shall bring an action before the Court in order to obtain an interim measure that may reduce or suspend the child maintenance payment.