Maintenance Enforcement When the Ex Refuses
It’s an unfortunate reality that there are former spouses who play games with support payments. Refusing to pay, paying late, paying less. Even disappearing.
What can be done?
In Alberta Family Law, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”) is a key safety net in receiving Court ordered support payments. MEP is a free initiative provided by the government that enforces court orders for child support or spousal support. Requiring a valid court order to enroll (unless both parties are willing to enter into a Support Agreement), the program primarily deals with Alberta cases but can also enforce support orders from a reciprocal jurisdiction.
MEP’s authority to enforce a child support or spousal support order is derived from the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Act, RSA 2000, c M-1 (the “Act”). Similar to the enforcement measures available for any court judgement or order, the Act permits MEP to collect payment directly from a payor in the amount set out before transferring the money to the receiving party. If a payor doesn’t make payments to MEP on time there are sanctions and enforcement measures available. Late or missed payments accumulate arrears and accrue interest. MEP can garnish wages and remove funds from bank accounts. It can also seize and sell assets in order to recover child support or spousal support owed. Stricter sanctions may include a report to the credit bureau, or numerous suspensions: vehicle registration, drivers’ license, passport or hunting license. At the very least, a non-payor will find themselves on the MEP’s dedicated webpage for finding defaulters, and a target for the anonymous tip line to report the whereabouts or assets of a person owing child or spousal support.
In some circumstances, MEP may request the payor prepare a Statement of Finances – a form that sets out all the available income and assets available to the person required to pay support. Failing to complete and return the Statement of Finances, the payor may have to attend court for a default hearing and testify under oath. Skip the default hearing, MEP has the authority under the Act to apply for an arrest warrant.
Once a court order has been registered with MEP, it is unwise to make payments directly to the recipient of support. Why? It may not be tracked with MEP, possibly leading to arrears. If a recipient repeatedly accepts direct payments of support after registering with MEP, the party may be withdrawn from the program.
Once a court order on support has been made, recipient and payor can register with MEP at any time. Completing the registration forms is time-consuming but straight-forward, although some of our clients have struggled with the section requiring an Affidavit of Arrears. The Affidavit demands the applicant set out the total amount due, the total amounts paid, and the difference owing. If a support order is registered soon after being granted, the Affidavit of Arrears is quite simple. However, if the arrears are substantial, or if a child support order deals with section 7 expenses, the Affidavit of Arrears can be complicated to complete.
Our legal team at Coach My Case is well equipped to ensure clients are paid what they are owed. Call for a free consultation with a Legal Navigator to discuss how we can assist.