The Maintenance Enforcement Program: 7 Things You Should Know

If you have a child support or spousal support order and want to avoid having to deal with your former spouse, the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) can be used to collect support from the paying spouse and distribute it to the recipient spouse. MEP can, for many people, be a confusing government program to deal with, often because it is difficult to find information about the program. Therefore, here are 7 things you should know about MEP.  

  1. The Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”) is a provincial government program that is responsible for collecting court ordered child support and spousal support.  The MEP program acts on behalf of parents who register a child support order with the program. Once a court order has been registered, MEP begins collecting child support or spousal support payments and pays them out to the recipient. 

  2. MEP can collect child support payable under section 3 and section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines.  However, MEP requires specific language in the court order before it will collect amounts owing for section 7 expenses.  In order for MEP to collect monies owing for section 7 expenses, the specific expenses included under section 7 must be stipulated in the order.  For example, if the parties anticipate that expenses associated with hockey are to be sharable, they must specify in their order which hockey expenses will be shareable and the proportionate share of each of the parties. Simply including “extracurricular expenses” is no longer sufficient language for collection by MEP. 

  3. MEP can enforce child support and spousal orders that have fallen into arrears.  Some of the steps that MEP can take in cases of non-payment include garnishing the wages of the payor, suspending the payor’s passport, suspending the payor’s drivers licence, and registering a support deduction notice with the payor’s bank to garnish directly from their accounts.

  4. MEP will not enforce an order where the payor of child support is now living in another country and has no assets in Canada. In this case, MEP will coordinate with child support enforcement program in the other jurisdiction, if one exists. If no enforcement program exists in the other country then other legal routes must be explored. 

  5. The MEP program moves slow. It takes weeks sometimes for MEP to register a file and it can take months for MEP to enforce child or spousal support by taking a licence or passport away. Be prepared to wait. 

  6. If you are a payor of child support or spousal support and dealing with arrears, it is possible to renegotiate the terms of repayment with MEP.  In some cases, it may be necessary to fight MEP in court and bring a family court application for a Stay of Enforcement to stop payment towards arrears.

  7. Bonus: the Recalculation Program is another program which can be used by parties to a court order, which avoids the parties having to return to court to have the amount of child support varied following a change of income.  The Recalculation Program is most helpful for employees, as opposed to self-employed individuals. Once registered, the Recalculation Program will contact the parties on the anniversary date of the order, to obtain their current financial information.  Upon receipt of the financial information the program will contact the parties to inform them of the new child support payments and the date upon which the new amount will be payable. If either of the parties refuse to provide the necessary financial documentation, the Recalculation Program can apply a deemed increase to that parties’ income and child support will be based on that deemed increase.  

If you are considering registering with MEP or the Recalculation Program, or if you are a payor of child or spousal support currently dealing with MEP actions, the lawyers at Crossroads Law have experience in dealing with MEP, both from the recipient and payor perspectives and can help you navigate your file with MEP. 

By Amanda Marsden