Q: I have children from a previous marriage and I pay a set monthly child maintenance for them. Is it permissible for me to deduct the next 12 months payments amount from the Zakat liabilities when doing my Zakat calculations?
A: Child maintenance can be a requirement of shariah or a requirement of the law of the country.
If a person is required by shariah to provide child maintenance, then there are two possible scenarios:
1) From a legal perspective (i.e. decision made by the court) one is also required to pay: In this case, he can only deduct payments which have fallen in arrears and the current monthly payment which is due. But he cannot deduct future monthly payments as they are not demandable yet.
2) From a legal perspective he is not required to pay but he has come into an agreement with his partner to pay the maintenance: No amount can be deducted unless the current guardian of the child had to buy necessary items on credit for which the father is now responsible to repay.
If a person is not required by shariah to provide with child maintenance:
3) From a legal perspective he is required to pay: The same as point number 1 will be applicable.
4) From a legal perspective he is not required to pay but he has come into a friendly agreement to pay for maintenance: In this case he will not be able to deduct anything; including the cost of items bought on credit by the current guardian of the child.
Please approach your local scholar to find out whether you are required by shariah to provide for child maintenance.
And Allah knows best!
Mufti Billal Omarjee