Maintenance contributions are designed to maintain children and must be set at a level that reflects both their requirements and the respective resources of each parent. The children's requirements are evaluated on the basis of the standard of living to which they are accustomed. Maintenance contributions must be sufficient to provide the children with an education and upbringing commensurate with their standard of living and family environment.
This obligation to contribute to child maintenance does not automatically end when children reach the age of majority (pursuant to Article 300(3) of the Civil Code), since children do not necessarily become financially independent upon becoming adults.
However, the principle and the amount of maintenance contributions are not set in stone.
Where there is a change in the personal or financial circumstances of one of the parents, that parent may ask the court to revise the maintenance contribution payable. If they choose to do this, they must show that the changes in their circumstances justify increasing, reducing or eliminating the maintenance contribution.
The party bringing this action to amend the amount of maintenance contributions will vary, depending on whether the child is a minor or an adult.
Parents represent their minor children in all acts of everyday civil life, and it is therefore their responsibility to bring the matter before the court on behalf of their minor children. The situation is different where the children concerned have reached the age of majority.
As a result of the combination of Articles 172 and 300 of the Civil Code, legal actions concerning the parents' obligation to pay child maintenance must be brought by the children themselves, if they have reached the age of majority.
Presently, established case law provides that a recipient of maintenance contributions who reaches the age of majority must himself make any claim to amend such contributions to the costs of his upkeep and education.
It follows that any legal action brought by the debtor against the recipient of maintenance contributions, seeking changes to the obligation to pay maintenance, must be declared inadmissible if the children concerned have reached the age of majority and are now themselves considered to be the recipients of the maintenance payments.
Nonetheless, this principle has been clarified by one judgement which found that a distinction should be made depending on whether the maintenance contributions were determined by mutual agreement between the parents as part of a divorce settlement.
The judgement was not appealed, and consequently remains an isolated case.