What the difference is between obligated to pay child support under a Court Order vs actually paying child support

Being obligated to pay child support under a Court Order and actually paying child support are two very different matters.

Unfortunately, a parent obligated to pay child support under a Court Order might not always pay that child support. When this happens, a recipient parent can make use of the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) to enforce the Order and receive child support.

The Maintenance Enforcement Program, or “MEP” for short, is a program that collects and enforces spousal, partner, and child support Orders in Alberta and throughout Canada.

MEP is authorized to garnish a payor’s income so that all support obligations are met. In fact, the most common way that MEP enforces support orders is by garnishing income.

However, under the Maintenance Enforcement Act, MEP is also able to suspend a non-paying parent’s driver’s license, passport, hunting/fishing license, or even seize assets that the non-paying parent has an interest in.

You can bet that MEP will make it their mission to ensure that the parent obligated to pay support actually pays, one way or another.

Take for example, the recent case of Power v Power (2020 NSSC 379).

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ordered Power to pay approximately $250,000.00 in past-due child support. To evade payment, Power relocated to Denmark with his new wife and son. Little did Power know, MEP was authorized to, and successfully cancelled Power’s passport, in addition to his driving license.

Upon receiving notice of this, the Danish immigration authorities subsequently deported Power back to Canada in February 2019. Power was then arrested in Montreal and—after trial—was found to be in contempt of a Court Order.

The Honourable Justice Jollimore was displeased with Power’s conduct… to say the least:

“I don’t need to use adjectives like “shameful”, “egregious”, or “flagrant” to describe Mr. Power’s behaviour. The dullest description of his actions doesn’t disguise the depths of his disregard for the court and his children.”

The Court found that it would be a proportionate penalty to impose an imprisonment of 4.5 years on Power. Power still has the option of “purging” his contempt if he meets his $250,000.00 obligation but I find that unlikely.

So, what did we learn from this?

  • If a Court Orders you to pay child support—and there is no change in circumstances that would warrant a variation of child support—then pay it. If you don’t know what qualifies as a change in circumstances, contact HFL.
  • Do not try to evade payment by going to Denmark, because MEP will cancel your passport, and force Denmark to deport you. Now, not only will you have to pay the full child support amount, but you will also have to pay another $1,500.00 to fly back to Denmark.
  • Lastly, never let your unpaid child support obligation reach $250,000.00, and then run away.

If you have questions about registering with MEP, or if you believe that MEP has unfairly brought action against you, contact Hayes Fry Law.