Legislation introduced to strengthen family maintenance enforcement

THE B.C. Government has introduced two legislative amendments that, if passed, will strengthen maintenance enforcement orders and ensure that children and families have the supports they are entitled to through the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP).

The first amendment will allow ICBC to cancel the driver’s licence of a person with substantial arrears, creating the possibility of immediate consequences for non-payment. Currently, FMEP can instruct ICBC to refuse to issue or renew a driver’s licence only at the time of renewal. This change will improve the effectiveness of child and spousal support enforcement by taking immediate action against those with more than $3,000 in arrears, encouraging negotiation to resolve payment arrangements.

The second amendment, if approved by the legislature, will replace a requirement to file the entirety of an order or agreement related to child or spousal support in the Land Titles Registry, with a simplified requirement to submit pertinent information only. This change will streamline processes and help prevent the unnecessary public disclosure of sensitive information.

FMEP helps families and children who are entitled to child support and spousal support under maintenance orders or agreements. The program receives payments from the person required to pay maintenance and sends the money to the person entitled to maintenance. In many cases, the individual makes payments voluntarily but, if necessary, FMEP will take steps to collect outstanding maintenance on behalf of the recipient.

Federal and provincial laws already give FMEP the authority to take a number of actions against persons with substantial arrears, including passport-application denial and intercepting funds owing to the person, such as tax refunds and employment insurance benefits. Each case is evaluated individually, and action taken depends on the person’s history, how much money the person owes, and other aspects of the person’s current situation. Enforcement actions are chosen based on the best chance of success.

The changes are expected to take effect within 60 to 90 days, should the legislation pass.


Quick Facts:

* British Columbia’s FMEP is one of the more-successful programs in Canada, and one of the most cost-efficient in North America.

* Since its inception in 1988-89, over $3.6 billion has been paid through FMEP to over 140,000 families and children, who might not otherwise have received support payments.

* About 70,000 parents are currently enrolled in the FMEP and overall, the payment rate on all cases is approximately 92%.