The Assessment of Alimony
The Civil Code requires the parents of a child to contribute financially to their maintenance and education in accordance with their resources. This sum of money is commonly known as alimony, and appears most often during the legal separations of two parents.
This money helps the parent with primary custody to financially support themselves and the children under their care. It is paid by the other parent and controlled or fixed by the family judge.
To calculate the financial amount of maintenance, the provisions of the Civil Code are laconic. This is why, in order to harmonize the practice of magistrates, the Ministry of Justice prepares reference tables every year. These tables are models available to judges and litigants who wish to submit a pension proposal.
These reference tables are based on three elements:
• The income of the debtor parent is taken into account as all of their net income minus that of the subsistence level, which is re-evaluated each year (In 2015, it amounted to 514 euros). In this respect, the resources of the new companion are counted to the extent that he or she assumes part of the daily expenses. Family allowances are left to the discretion of the judge. Compensatory benefits are not considered.
• The total number of dependent children. Generally, the higher the number of children, the lower the total amount of the contribution.
• The extent of the right to visit and accommodation.
There are three guard modes. The classic mode corresponds to the situation in which the principal residence of the children is fixed at one parent’s home during three quarters or less of the total residence time (an example of this would be a child who spends two weekends out of three at one parent’s home).
The reduced mode corresponds to the situation in which the residence of the children is fixed mainly in one parent’s home, and where the children spend more than three quarters of the residence time (an example of this would be a child who only visits one parent on school holidays and national holidays).
Finally, the alternate mode of care corresponds to the situation in which the children are with each parent for an equal amount of time. In principle, this situation does not give rise to the payment of alimony. However, such a pension is paid when the parents do not agree on the cost sharing of the children or when one of the parents cannot financially assume the alternate care mode alone.
A simulator based on the reference table of the year is available on the website of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women's Rights.
To get an idea of the expected amounts, here are some examples:
A parent who has €5,000 of resources per month and who has two dependent children, in a traditional childcare arrangement, can pay €516 in alimony for each of them.
Similarly a parent with €1,500 of income per month, with five children and reduced childcare can pay €105 per child.
Finally, a parent with €3,100 in income, with three dependent children and an alternative care arrangement will be able to pay €173 per child.
In practice, this scale is simply informative. It is not binding on the judge or the parents. Indeed, during the control or the fixing of the alimony, the judge will take into account all relevant variables.
Thus the expenses of the parents (taxes, housing, daily life, etc.) and the expenses of the children (based on their age, state of health, studies, etc.) compared to a previous practice in particular are looked at by the judge with the family affairs. It is important to note that the child is no longer entitled to the payment of alimony once they reach the legal age of autonomy, unless they are legally declared incapable of autonomy.
Moreover, the parents can consult each other and decide that which expenses of the child one or the other parent will assume.
To get an idea of the current state of jurisprudence, here are some more examples:
Example from a judgment rendered by the Court of Appeal of Versailles on November 7th, 2013 (n ° 12/05450). The mother of the 13-year-old residing at home was a part-time teacher with a monthly income of €2,964.
The child was attending music lessons and needed orthodontic care.
The father, logistics technician had €2,538 monthly. His expenses consisted of a rent of €820 euros and €320 of taxes per month.
A family court in Versailles required a monthly maintenance of €200 euros at the expense of the father.
An example from a judgment delivered by the Nancy Court of Appeal on November 4th, 2011 (no. 12/02157). Four children were involved: one 8-year-old, one 9-year-old and the other two were adults, but were not autonomous. They usually lived with their mother.
The mother, a part-time assistant teacher, had €2,333 of income per month (including salary and family benefits).
The father, a teacher,, lived with his new companion, without justifying his expenses and received €2,474 of monthly salary.
The judge decides a maintenance payment of €125 euros per month and €500 per month per child.
Support payments are revalued each year, based on the cost of living and an index specified in the judgment.