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Claiming maintenance allowance and arrears

FAQ Claiming maintenance allowance and arrears

  • Can DAVO/SECAL help me if my ex-partner does not pay maintenance allowance?

    Your ex-partner does not pay the maintenance allowance to which you are entitled, and you are wondering how you can nevertheless obtain the money and whether you can receive advances on future maintenance payments? We can help you, but only if you meet a few conditions.

    What are the conditions for assistance in claiming unpaid maintenance allowance?

    We can only help if:

    • you are a Belgian resident,
    • you have an enforceable title in which the amount of maintenance allowance has been laid down,
    • the maintenance allowance has not been paid or paid only partially at least twicein the 12 monthspreceding your request.

    If you are entitled to assistance from the DAVO/SECAL, we will transfer the maintenance allowance paid to us by the maintenance debtor.

    What are the conditions for receiving advance payments for your children?

    Since the amendment to the law of 2 July 2020, the conditions for entitlement to advances on maintenance payments have been adjusted. Consequently, the income ceiling has been abolished.

    For children entitled to maintenance allowance under the age of 18, it is sufficient to submit a single request for the granting of advances. You will then receive an advance payment on maintenance allowance until the day the child reaches the age of majority.

    For children entitled to maintenance allowance who are 18 years of age or older, in addition to submitting a request for the granting of advances every six months, it should also be demonstrated that your child over the age of majority is still entitled to the Growth Package (= child benefits).

    If you are entitled to advances, we will pay you the amount of the indexed maintenance allowance each month, up to a maximum of EUR 175 per month and per child.

  • Who can DAVO/SECAL intervene for?

    You have an enforceable title (a judgement or a notarial deed) proving that you are entitled to maintenance allowance and you are wondering if we can help you obtain unpaid maintenance allowance? It depends on who the maintenance allowance has been granted to.

    Who has the maintenance been granted to?

    THE MAINTENANCE ALLOWANCE IS INTENDED FOR THE CHILDREN

    We can help if the maintenance allowance has been granted by means of an enforceable title.

    THE MAINTENANCE ALLOWANCE IS INTENDED FOR AN (EX-)SPOUSE.

    In that case, we can help if the maintenance allowance has been granted by means of an enforceable title before or during the divorce proceedings or after the divorce.

    The maintenance allowance is intended for the cohabitant

    We can help if the maintenance allowance has been granted by means of an enforceable title, regardless of whether the cohabitation has been terminated or not.

    The maintenance allowance has been granted to the (grand)parents

    There is nothing we can do for you.

    What if there is nothing we can do for you?

    You can take steps to recover the money yourself. To this end, you can seek the assistance of a lawyer or a bailiff. You can also get free first-line legal aid from a Legal Aid Office.

  • How far back in the past can I claim arrears?

    Depending on your situation, you can recover up to 5 to 10 years. There are two options:

    You have an enforceable title which states that the maintenance debtor has to pay future maintenance allowance (= periodic debt)

    The limitation period is five years. Therefore, you can only claim maintenance arrears up to five years ago, unless the limitation period has been interrupted as a result of:

    • an acknowledgement of debt by your ex-partner (e.g. through a voluntary payment),
    • an order to pay that has been served on your ex-partner,
    • the service of an attachment on your ex-partner,
    • a summons of your ex-partner to appear in court.

    You have a judgement which orders the maintenance debtor to pay maintenance arrears (= a capital debt)

    For a conviction in which the court grants past maintenance allowance, the limitation period is ten years. You will not be able to claim this debt later, unless the limitation period has been interrupted as a result of:

    • an acknowledgement of debt by your ex-partner (e.g. through a voluntary payment),
    • an order to pay that has been served on your ex-partner,
    • the service of an attachment on your ex-partner,
    • a summons of your ex-partner to appear in court.
  • Should I first send a request for payment to my ex-partner myself before I can ask for assistance from DAVO/SECAL?

    You have not yet taken steps to recover the unpaid maintenance allowance? There is no need to do so in order to get our assistance.

    The only three conditions are:

    • you are a Belgian resident
    • you have an enforceable titlein which the amount of maintenance allowance has been laid down
    • the maintenance allowance has not been paid or paid only partially at least twice in the 12 months preceding your request.
  • What title (judgement, etc.) do I need to request the intervention of DAVO/SECAL?

    To request our intervention, you should have an enforceable title and its service.

    What is an enforceable title?

    There are several examples of enforceable titles:

    • the enforceable court decision (= judge’s decision)
    • the divorce certificate by mutual consent
    • the enforceable settlement

    Are not enforceable titles:

    • a private document
    • an oral agreement
    • a judgement or an agreement that does not specify the amount of maintenance allowance.

    What can you do if you are not sure whether you have a valid enforceable title?

    Please do not hesitate to contact a DAVO/SECAL Intake Office near you. We will then check whether your document is sufficient to start a case.

  • Do I have to have my enforceable title served by a bailiff to be able to appeal to the DAVO/SECAL?

    You should have an enforceable title and its service to be able to start a case with the DAVO/SECAL.

    • If the court decision has not yet been served, you can appeal to a bailiff and request him to proceed with serving this court decision.
    • The costs of service shall be borne by you. Under certain conditions, you can ask the Legal Aid Office for advice to limit these costs. For more information, please contact a law centre.

    However, no service is required for a number of enforceable titles. This is the case for:

    • a notarial deed
    • statement of amicable settlement
  • What are my rights as a maintenance creditor with DAVO/SECAL?

    You are entitled to maintenance allowance (money that your ex-partner has to pay you to provide for your needs and/or those of your child(ren)), but your ex-partner does not pay it? In that case, you can submit a request for intervention with the Maintenance Claims Department (DAVO/SECAL).

    What can you expect from us?

    • You will receive the maintenance allowance and arrears paid by your ex-partner to the DAVO/SECAL.
    • You will receive advances for children on future maintenance payments if you have requested it and meet the legal requirements.

    What can you do if you do not agree with the decision of the DAVO/SECAL?

    You can appeal to the attachment judge of your legal district.

    Can you cease our intervention yourself?

    You can cease our intervention at any time. You should preferably do this by sending a registered letter to one of our info centres.

  • What are my obligations as a maintenance creditor?

    If you are entitled to maintenance allowance and your ex-partner does not pay, you can ask for our assistance. In order to continue receiving this assistance, you should always inform us of all relevant information and any changes.

    What should you notify us of immediately?

    You should immediately inform us if you are in any of the following situations:

    • There is a change in your situation or in your child's situation (for example, a new judgement changing the amount of maintenance allowance, your child starts working, etc.).
    • You have received payments directly from your ex-partner, even though you have submitted your request for intervention.
    • You have decided yourself (or, for example, through the intervention of a lawyer or bailiff) to take stepsto claim maintenance allowance and thus no longer to seek the assistance of the DAVO/SECAL.
    • You have information about your ex-partner's income or assets.
    • The account number to which we should pay you the recovered maintenance allowance and/or advances has changed: please provide us with your new account number as soon as possible. If not, you may not receive the payments for a certain period of time.

    You can find the contact details of your DAVO/SECAL Intake Office by filling in your municipality and then clicking on search.

  • Can the DAVO/SECAL also recover extraordinary expenses (= medical expenses, school fees, etc.) for children?

    The DAVO/SECAL can intervene in the recovery of extraordinary expenses under certain conditions:

    • In addition to maintenance allowance, the enforceable title also provides for the payment of extraordinary expenses.
    • The costs are calculated for a specific period.

    Examples of extraordinary expenses we accept:

    • EUR 100 per three months as extraordinary expenses
    • EUR 250 per month for the rent of a student flat

    Examples of extraordinary expenses we cannot accept:

    • 50% of all school fees
    • half of all medical expenses
  • Can I submit a request if my ex-partner has no income, I do not know the address of my ex-partner or if my ex-partner is in prison?

    Yes, you can. The only three conditions for submitting a request are:

    • you are a Belgian resident
    • you have an enforceable titlein which the amount of maintenance allowance has been laid down
    • the maintenance allowance has not been paid or paid only partially at least twice in the 12 monthspreceding your request.

    This means that you do not need to know the current address of your ex-partner. We have several possibilities to search for the address ourselves.

    If your ex-partner is insolvent (cannot pay), we cannot guarantee that we will be able to pay you the maintenance allowance which has not yet been paid. We can only do that if your ex-partner has funds that can be attached. However, we may be able to give you advances on maintenance allowance to be paid by your ex-partner in the future for the children entitled to maintenance allowance.

  • Can I appeal to the DAVO/SECAL if my ex-partner lives abroad?

    We can start a case, but we cannot guarantee the duration of the procedure and the recovery results. If the maintenance debtor has no income in Belgium, we have to cooperate with the authorities of the country in which your ex-partner lives, via the FPS Justice. We are therefore dependent on the effectiveness and goodwill of the foreign authorities and of the maintenance debtor himself.

    In this situation you may still be entitled to the granting of advances by the DAVO/SECAL (provided that you meet the conditions).

  • Can the DAVO/SECAL intervene if I live abroad, but my ex-partner lives in Belgium?

    You have moved abroad, but your ex is still living in Belgium?

    In that case, we cannot intervene. After all, you have to fulfil three conditions:

    1. as the requesting party (= the person who is to receive the maintenance allowance), you are a Belgian resident
    2. you have an enforceable titlein which the amount of maintenance allowance has been laid down
    3. the maintenance allowance has not been paid or paid only partially at least twice in the 12 monthspreceding your request.

    What you can do, is contact the authorities of your country of residence and ask them what possibilities they offer for recovering maintenance allowance in Belgium.

  • The amount of maintenance ordered by the judge is too low: is it possible to have it increased?

    We cannot decide on an increase of the amount of the monthly maintenance allowance. Only the judge can do that.

  • Are there any costs involved in the intervention of the DAVO/SECAL?

    The DAVO/SECAL is not your only option for recovering unpaid maintenance allowance. You can also appeal to a private player, such as a bailiff or a lawyer. What about the cost price?

    If the DAVO/SECAL recovers the amounts for you

    COSTS FOR THE REQUESTING PARTY?

    • For new requests, the intervention is completely free of charge.
    • For requests received before 1 January 2015, the requesting party is also required to contribute to the operating costs of the DAVO/SECAL. We will withhold 5 % of the amount that can be transferred to you as payment of the maintenance allowance.

    COSTS FOR THE MAINTENANCE DEBTOR?

    • For new requests, the maintenance debtor is required to pay an operating cost of 13% on top of the amount owed to you.
    • For requests received before 1 January 2015, the maintenance debtor is required to pay an operating cost of 10 % on top of the amount payable to you.

    Example:

    You are entitled to:

    • EUR 500 in arrears (maintenance allowance of EUR 100 not paid for five months)
    • monthly maintenance allowance of EUR 100

    In that case, we will claim from the maintenance debtor:

    • EUR 565 (EUR 500 + 13 % operating costs) in arrears
    • EUR 113 (EUR 100 + 13 % operating costs) as monthly maintenance allowance

    If a private player recovers the amounts for you

    When appealing to a lawyer or a bailiff, you will usually first have to pay an advance on costs, which will not be repaid until the bailiff has succeeded in recovering money from your ex-partner.

  • Can the DAVO/SECAL ask me to pay back any money I received from them?

    Yes, we can. We can ask for the full or partial repayment of any amounts you have received unduly.

    In what cases, for example, can we ask you for repayment?

    • If the court in a new decision reduces or abolishes maintenance allowance with retroactive effect.
      • If this means that you have received advances in excess, we will reclaim the difference from you.
      • If this means that your ex-partner has paid us maintenance allowance in excess, we will reclaim the excess amount from you.
    • If you do not inform us in time of any information which affects the amount of the advance payments or maintenance allowance.
      • For example: you have not informed us that your child has started working and is therefore no longer entitled to maintenance allowance.
    • If you have received amounts not intended for you, due to an administrative error.
      • For example: the employer of your ex-partner has paid us the wrong amount and we have already transferred it to you.
  • How do I request the intervention of the DAVO/SECAL?

  • How is my request dealt with?

    You have submitted a complete request for intervention (i.e. with all the necessary documents) and you are wondering what will happen next?

    We allow time for the maintenance debtor to respond

    We inform the maintenance debtor by registered letter that you have asked us to recover unpaid maintenance allowance. The maintenance debtor then has 15 days to prove that he no longer needs to pay you that maintenance allowance, for example because:

    • he has already paid the maintenance allowance that you wish to recover through the DAVO/SECAL,
    • you did not provide us with the latest version of the enforceable title in which the maintenance allowance has been laid down, for example, because the maintenance allowance has been reduced or abolished in a new judgement.

    We make a decision based on all the information

    From the moment your request is complete, we have 30 days to come to a decision. That decision may be favourable, partially favourable or unfavourable.

    FAVOURABLE DECISION

    We will send you a notification of the decision that we have accepted the case.

    At the same time, we will send a notification to the maintenance debtor: in a registered letter we inform the maintenance debtor that he no longer has to pay to you but to the DAVO/SECAL.

    If any future maintenance allowance is payable, we will also send the maintenance debtor a monthly payment notification mentioning the new debt. If the maintenance debtor does not pay voluntarily, we may initiate recovery proceedings. We may, for example, attach wages or possible tax refunds.

    PARTIALLY FAVOURABLE DECISION

    We have decided to impose a lower amount than the one you have asked for in your request. We will notify you of the reasons in a letter. It may be, for example, that the maintenance debtor has proved that he or she has already paid some amounts.

    At the same time, we will send a notification to the maintenance debtor: in a registered letter we inform the maintenance debtor of his debt towards the DAVO/SECAL.

    If any future maintenance allowance is payable, we will also send the maintenance debtor a monthly payment notification mentioning the new debt. If the maintenance debtor does not pay voluntarily, we may initiate recovery proceedings. We may, for example, attach wages or possible tax refunds.

    UNFAVOURABLE DECISION

    If we decide you are not entitled to intervention, we will notify you of the reasons in a letter, but it may be because:

    • you do not meet the legal requirements,
    • the debtor has proven that he or she has completely complied with the enforceable title or that the debt is no longer of present interest.

    If you do not agree with the decision you receive from the DAVO/SECAL, you can appeal to the attachment judge of your legal district.

  • When will the DAVO/SECAL pay me the arrears?

    We will only transfer you money if your ex-partner has paid it to us. If your ex-partner does not pay voluntarily, we can, for example, attach his or her income. However, it may take a while before you notice any results.

    Did you also receive advances from us?

    In that case, please note that your ex-partner should first repay those advances to us. Only when the debt has been paid in full, we will use the money we have received from your ex-partner to pay you the arrears.

  • When will the DAVO/SECAL stop intervening?

    In a number of cases, we will cease to intervene, either completely or partially.

    Complete cessation

    If the debt has been paid in full, we will automatically cease our intervention.

    Partial cessation

    If the maintenance debtor has paid the maintenance allowance as well as the operating costs six times in a row, we will partly cease our intervention.

    We will no longer intervene in the payment of the monthly maintenance allowance. The maintenance debtor will have to pay this directly to you. This also means that we will no longer pay advances on maintenance payments.

    However, we will continue to intervene to recover maintenance arrears. This means that we will continue to intervene to ensure that you receive the maintenance allowance that has not been paid in time.

    FOR INSTANCE:

    You are entitled to:

    • EUR 500 in arrears (maintenance allowance of EUR 100 not paid for five months)
    • monthly maintenance allowance of EUR 100

    In that case, we will claim from the maintenance debtor:

    • EUR 565 (EUR 500 + 13 % operating costs) in arrears
    • EUR 113 (EUR 100 + 13 % operating costs) as monthly maintenance allowance

    If the maintenance debtor then pays us EUR 113 six months in a row, we will:

    • no longer intervene in the payment of the monthly maintenance allowance of EUR 100 from the seventh month onwards,
    • still intervene to recover the arrears of EUR 500 (plus the 13% operating costs that the maintenance debtor has to pay to the DAVO/SECAL).
  • Can I cease the DAVO/SECAL intervention myself and what will be the consequences?

    Do you no longer consider the intervention of DAVO/SECAL necessary? You can ask us to cease our intervention at any time. The best way to do this is by registered letter. We will then officially inform both you and the maintenance debtor that we are ceasing our intervention.

    Consequences for the maintenance creditor

    By ceasing intervention:

    • you can use the enforceable title in which the maintenance allowance has been laid down to take enforcement measures yourself (through a lawyer or a bailiff),
    • you cannot submit a new request with the DAVO/SECAL for the arrears from the entire period before the cessation of our intervention. However, you can submit a new request for arrears that may arise after the cessation of our intervention.

    Consequences for the maintenance debtor

    Despite the cessation, the debtor will still have to pay us:

    • the advances you may have received from us,
    • the associated operating costs.

    Please note that maintenance payments that have been unduly paid by the DAVO/SECAL can still be recovered after we have ceased to intervene.