When a court orders an ex-spouse to pay spousal or child support, it creates a legal responsibility for that individual to make payments on a particular schedule. The court expects that the payor will take their responsibilities seriously, and make the payments when they’re supposed to. If a separated couple decides to resolve support issues out of court, and enters into a legally binding agreement for spousal or child support, it likewise creates a legal responsibility for the support payor. Unfortunately, not all support payors will abide by court orders or written agreements. When these payments aren’t made, the recipient is left wondering how they can collect the support they’re owed.
The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (or FMEP) exists to solve this issue. Let’s take a look at how this valuable service works.
Family Maintenance Enforcement Program – How it Works
The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (or FMEP) is a free service provided by the BC Attorney General that’s successful in collecting over $200 million each year for over 37,000 families. If an ex-spouse has concerns about future support payments, or an ongoing instance of support not being paid, the FMEP provides a free collection mechanism to resolve the issue.
It’s simple to enlist the services of the FMEP. Simply visit the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program website with the following documents ready:
- A court order or agreement that clearly explains the support levels;
- A fully updated account of what you have or have not been paid.
What FMEP Can and Cannot Do
The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program is a strong ally in ensuring spousal or child support is paid in full. Operating under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, they have wide ranging powers to ensure compliance and enforce action.
FMEP’s powers include:
- Collecting amounts owed under a maintenance order or agreement, including arrears and special expenses
- Tracking payments by having the payor send the maintenance to FMEP Payment Services directly
- Forwarding the maintenance to the recipient spouse
- Taking enforcement action if payments are not made
- Intercepting federal sources of income such as income tax or EI
- Cancelling a current driver’s license or preventing a new license from being issued unless payment is made
- Suspending a passport or other federal licenses unless payment is made
- Issuing a summons for the payor to attend a default hearing in court
- Issuing a lien against the payor’s personal property or land
- Obtaining information about the payor’s location, employment and assets through federal and provincial databases
While the FMEP retain far-reaching powers to ensure enforcement, there are several things the FMEP cannot do:
- Obtain or change a maintenance order or agreement
- Enforce a maintenance order or agreement without a set amount – it must have a specific amount due for child/spousal support
- Help parents with parenting time (custody) or contact (access) issues
Get in Touch
If you need help navigating child support, get in touch with us today. Our lawyers are ready to assist you with any questions and concerns you may have regarding this and other family law matters.