AGREEMENT BETWEEN SEPARATED PARENTS FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF THEIR CHILDREN DOES NOT BIND THE COURT
The Family Appellate Court has recently issued a Decision (Appeal No. 30/2017, dated 29/11/2019) which concerns the legal effect of an agreement between separated or divorced parents for the maintenance of their minor children.
According to Cyprus Law parents are jointly responsible for their minor child’s maintenance according to their financial abilities.
In the case discussed, a mother filed at the Family Court a petition against her ex-husband requesting contribution for the maintenance of their two minor children. The applicant mother was asking for a high amount of monthly maintenance on the basis, among others, of a written agreement signed between the two parents right after the interruption of their cohabitation. The Family Court’s decision did not meet the applicant’s expectations since it ordered the respondent father to pay every month, an amount of maintenance which was quite less than that originally agreed to be paid by the father.
The mother filed an appeal but the Family Appellate Court affirmed the first instance Court decision. The Family Appellate Court noted that an agreement for the payment of a specific amount of maintenance does not have any binding effect on the Court neither it could operate as a criterion for the measurement of the children’s financial needs and expenses or for the determination of the financial capacity of the respondent parent. Furthermore the Appellate Family Court declined to accept that the agreement operated as an “estoppel by conduct” against the respondent father or that it could affect his credibility.
For many lawyers the Family Appellate Court decision is not surprising since in Cyprus it is a well-established legal principle that a fundamental obligation provided by Law which is left to be determined by the Court, such as the provision of a child’s maintenance, can not be regulated or waived by the parties involved. But despite this principle, the execution of agreements such as the discussed is not an unusual phenomenon in Cyprus. Usually such agreements are not being made independently but constitute a part of a framework agreement between the separated parents for the general settlement of all matrimonial and divorce matters or disputes between them such as parental care, communication with children, property issues etc.
Consequently the Family Appellate Court’s decision clarifies that legal arrangements made between separated or divorced parents by which they agree the payment of a certain amount for the maintenance of their children are actually of no use in Cyprus.
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