Maintenance Enforcement Program for Alberta Residents
Sometimes, despite a court order being issued, stipulating child, spousal or partner support to be paid by one ex-partner to another, payments are not made.
For the recipient or the payor, financial hardship may result from the situation. The Alberta family law system treats this seriously, especially when children are impacted.
Alberta’s maintenance enforcement program is designed to help recipients of support get the payments that they are due.
Learn More → Reasons Why You Need to Hire a Family Law Lawyer
What is the maintenance enforcement program (MEP) in Calgary?
Help from the maintenance enforcement program (MEP) is available to any recipient of support in Calgary who does not receive payments as ordered by the court or as per the terms of a maintenance agreement.
It is a government program that covers the following three types of support:
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Partner support
Whether the payments are withheld knowingly or unintentionally, the local agent of the MEP can assist most recipients in legally getting paid what they are due.
But not everyone qualifies for assistance and there are some misunderstandings with how the program works.
Maintenance Enforcement Program Forms
Who is eligible for assistance from the MEP in Calgary?
Assistance from the MEP is available to anyone who successfully registers with the program. This requires three basic criteria to be met:
- The recipient or payor spouse must reside in Alberta
- You must either pay or receive child support, spousal support or partner support
- A court order for support, maintenance order or maintenance agreement must be filed with the court
The family lawyers Spectrum Family Law in Calgary can help you complete the paperwork to enroll in the program.
How does the MEP work?
Upon successfully registering for the maintenance enforcement program in Alberta, assistance will be provided for recipients of support who meet the following obligations:
- You provide information promptly to assist program administrators to collect payments from the payor
- You respond to any changes in the court order(s) promptly
- You inform the administrators of any changes to name, address, phone number, or banking information that may affect the transfer of your support
- You inform the program of any changes in a child’s status (for child support)
- You inform the program of any payments received from your former spouse
While the maintenance enforcement program is primarily seen as a program to assist support recipients, it can also provide assistance to payors of support who meet the following obligations:
- They make prompt payments to the MEP as per the court order(s)
- They inform the program of payment problems or late payments before the due date
- They inform the program of changes to address, phone number, employment or banking information
- They inform the MEP of any changes to the child’s status (child support)
If payments are not made, the MEP has the authority to enforce the debt by taking actions such as:
- Demanding to see the financial statements of the payer
- Transferring money from salary or bank accounts
- Suspending the payer’s driver’s license
- Asking the court to send the payor to jail (this is only used as a last resort)
Bear in mind that the program does not provide legal representation for the recipient or the payor and cannot help you change a court order.
If you require these legal services, speak to one of the experienced lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary.
What is a “stay” of support enforcement in Calgary?
When support orders are made in Calgary, the court considers all the factors that apply at the time.
The intention is not to negatively impact either partner but to make the best possible arrangements for a child’s upbringing and/or for the transition of both partners to a self-sufficient life.
If circumstances change substantially, the support order can create financial hardship for one or both of the partners. For the payor, in particular, the support obligations can become so severe that payments cannot realistically be met.
The MEP’s purpose is not to make this situation worse. A payor can, therefore, apply for a “stay” of support enforcement in some circumstances. This will temporarily suspend the actions of the MEP in enforcing the financial support order.
The following circumstances may justify a stay of enforcement:
- If you have appealed a court order granting support: if the court agrees that the appeal is on valid grounds, a stay may be granted (it is not automatic).
- If your financial position changes substantially: a significant change in financial circumstances can trigger an application to cancel arrears and modify an order. This will lead to a stay of enforcement until the matter is settled.
- If you are incarcerated: the court may sympathize with your inability to earn wages and may authorize a stay of enforcement.
- If property division is pending in a divorce: if the marital estate is yet to be divided in divorce proceedings, the court may grant a stay of enforcement.
- If the validity of an order is questioned: if a financial support order is granted overseas or elsewhere in Canada, it may be questioned by the Alberta courts before its enforcement will be authorized.
- If there are delays to enforcing the order: if you are negatively impacted by a delay and then sudden enforcement of an order, it can be stayed for a period.
How to apply for a stay of enforcement in Calgary
The Maintenance Enforcement Act states that you can apply to the court for a stay for a period of up to nine months.
As you have seen, however, you can only apply for this in certain circumstances – and it is not automatically granted.
Before applying to the court, you must have made attempts to enter a payment arrangement with MEP and you must have valid reasons for being unable to do so. You must also have valid grounds for not paying the arrears or ongoing financial support. You cannot simply decide that it is not fair and stop paying.
To apply to the court for a stay of enforcement, you may need legal representation, as the MEP cannot do this on your behalf.
Download Stay of Enforcement Worksheet
Get help as a payor or recipient of support in Calgary
The maintenance enforcement program may impact you as a payor or recipient of support in Calgary.
As a recipient owed money by your ex, a lawyer from Spectrum Family Law can help you register for the program and claim what you are owed.
Conversely, if you are a payor with grounds to appeal enforcement, we can help you follow up and apply for a stay.
Please contact us online to schedule a consultation, or call us directly at (403) 452-0043.